Three teens vandalized a historic African-American schoolhouse in Virginia with swastikas back in October. This week, however, the teens pled guilty, and you won’t believe what the judge is requiring them to do: They have to visit the U.S. Holocaust Museum and read books.
Prosecutor Alex Rueda explains how she constructed this unorthodox punishment in a recent interview with NPR. Rueda believes the three teens don’t fully understand what they were doing, because they don’t truly understand the history behind the symbol. She stated:
“What I can tell you about them is that three of them were minorities. Two of them were white. But none of them knew that it was a school. None of them knew that it was a historic property. They all thought it was just this abandoned shed.”
The kids’ parents are “mortified” and apparently one family already made their kid go to the Holocaust Museum–which is a start. Rueda feels that this should be a teachable moment for the teens, since they are not adults yet–and that rehabilitation is always the goal. I can’t disagree with her there.
So, what do they actually have to do? They have to write a book report every month from a list of novels assigned to them by Rueda, such as “The Color Purple.” Rueda says she wants the books to cover “race and religion and gender and war” as a way to highlight all of the “oppression all over the world.” She went on to say that she wants “them to understand that this can happen anywhere and that these kinds of symbols can be very, very hurtful.”
Hopefully, they will.