Teens vandals sentenced to read books, write papers

Teens sentenced to read books & write papers

ASHBURN, VA (WUSA9) - An unusual sentence has been given to five teenage boys who vandalized the historic Ashburn Colored School.  The 16 and 17 year olds spray-painted it with racist, sexist and anti-Semitic symbols. 

The community was outraged.

But now, a unique sentence given to the boys is drawing approval from the across the country.

Instead of coming down hard on the boys, the prosecutor decided to look at it as a "teachable moment."

RELATED: Historic schoolhouse vandalized in Ashburn

"It was very obvious from the beginning that these were  dumb teenagers," said Loudoun County prosecutor Alex Rueda.

The boys drew various symbols such as swastikas, sexual-explicit pictures  and the words "white power" and "brown power," along with drawings of dinosaurs. 

"None of the boys had any prior record.  hey had never been in trouble. And it was obvious that this was not racially motivated. It was more of them being stupid and not understanding the seriousness of what they had done," said Rueda.

The motivation, she says, came from one boy who had a falling out with the Loudoun School for the Gifted, which is renovating the historic building. 

Volunteers from the school helped paint over the graffiti. The other boys went along with it and told officials that they thought the building was just a shed, said Rueda. 

"I knew because they had no record, it would be very easy for them to to just walk into court plead guilty and the judge would just put them on probation and then they would just be meeting with a probation officer once a month, and...peeing in a cup to make sure they weren't smoking weed," she said.  

But Rueda, the daughter of librarian, thought of a sentence that would both teach the kids and help heal the community. 

She came up with a list of 35 books and 14 movies. Books such as Alice Walker's The Color Purple, Eli Weisel's Night, and Toni Morrison's  The Bluest Eye.  Movies on the list include 12 Years a Slave and Lincoln.  Important books and movies that deal with race, gender, religion, and war. 

Here's the full list of approved books: 

1. The Color Purple- Alice Walker
2. Native Son – Richard Wright
3. Exodus – Leon Uris
4. Mitla 18- Leon Uris
5. Trinity – Leon Uris
6. My Name is Asher Lev – Chaim Potok
7. The Chosen – Chaim Potok
8. The Sun Also Rises – Ernest Hemingway
9. Night –Elie Wiesel
10. The Crucible – Arthur Miller
11. The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
12. A Thousand Splendid Suns – Khaled Hosseini
13. Things Falls Apart – Chinua Achebe
14. The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
15. To Kill A Mockingbird – Harper Lee
16. I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings – Maya Angelou
17. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks – Rebecca Skloot
18. Caleb’s Crossing – Geraldine Brooks
19. Tortilla Curtain – TC Boyle
20. The Bluest Eye- Toni Morrison
21. A Hope In The Unseen – Ron Suskind
22. Down These Mean Streets – Piri Thomas
23. Black Boy – Richard Wright
24. The Beautiful Struggle – Ta Nehisi Coats
25. The Banality of Evil – Hannah Arendt
26. The Underground Railroad – Colson Whitehead
27. Reading Lolita in Tehran – Azar Nafisi
28. The Rape of Nanking – Iris Chang
29. Infidel – Ayaan Hirsi Ali
30. The Orphan Master’s Son- Adam Johnson
31. The Help – Kathryn Stockett
32. Cry the Beloved Country –Alan Patton
33. Too Late the Phalarope –Alan Paton
34. A Dry White Season –Andre Brink
35. Ghost Soldiers – Hampton Sides

"They have to write either a book report once a month of they can substitute three of of the books for a movie review, so I also gave them a list of approved movies that they can watch. And hopefully, what they get out of this year is a greater appreciation for  gender, race, religion, bigotry. And then when they go out in to the world, they are teachers."

The five teenagers also have to write a research paper to explain the message that swastikas and white power symbols send to the various communities.  

They also have to go to the Holocaust museum and the American history museum to see an exhibit on the internment of Japanese during World War II.  

The order requires their parents to go the museums with them and also see the movies together, the "the whole family learns."  

© 2017 WUSA-TV


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