A group of Virginia teens convicted of spray-painting an historic black church with swastikas and “white power” have been sentenced to visit the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.
The five boys, all 16 or 17, will also read books from Jewish, black and Afghan authors, and write a research paper on hate speech, The Washington Post reported. They were also sentenced to listen to an interview with a former student of Ashburn Colored School, which they vandalized.
At their sentencing earlier this week, Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Alex Rueda argued that the boys were likely motivated by ignorance, not racial hatred. Three of the five are minorities who also wrote “brown power” on the building, and none had previously been in trouble with the law, according to The Washington Post. All pleaded guilty to unlawful entry and destruction of property.
The Ashburn Colored School opened in 1892 for black students who had been forbidden by law to attend school with white students. The school remained open until the late 1950s after the Supreme Court banned segregated education. Prior to the defacement of the building in September, local students were working to restore the school and open it as a museum.
Along with a research paper detailing “the message that swastikas and white power messages on African American schools or houses of worship send to the African American community as well as the broader community,” the boys will also write papers on the books they read, Rueda said. Those titles include Elie Wiesel’s Night, Ta-Nehisi Coates’ The Beautiful Struggle and books by other eminent authors including Toni Morrison and Khaled Hosseini.