Teens' Punishment for 'White Power' Graffiti: Book Reports

They vandalized black schoolhouse; now they have to read tomes about oppression
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 13, 2017 6:00 PM CST
Teens Who Vandalized Black School Forced to Read Books
Creative assignment.   (Getty Images/nata_vkusidey)

Some say don't judge a book by its cover, but a Virginia attorney's office will be judging the progress of a group of teenagers by their book reports. The five teens pleaded guilty to vandalizing the Ashburn Colored School, a historic black schoolhouse, by spray-painting it with swastikas and "white power" graffiti, and so the Loudon County Attorney's Office administered a punishment more educational than punitive: The kids have to write book reports and go on field trips, MPR News reports. And they can't read just any books, but those "chosen based on their literary significance and/or their subject matter content surrounding race, religion and discrimination," per an attorney's office release.

Among those tomes (from which each student will have to write one report a month for the next year): Elie Wiesel's Holocaust memoir Night, The Color Purple by Alice Walker, and The Banality of Evil by Hannah Arendt. The teens—whom the New York Times IDs as all being 16 or 17, with two of them being white and three being minorities—are also required to visit DC's Holocaust Museum and the Japanese-American internment camps exhibit at the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History. They also have to write a paper on swastikas and white power messages and how these affect African-Americans. "It occurred to me that the way these kids are going to learn about this stuff is if they read about it," the attorney who came up with the idea tells the Times. Maybe, she adds, if they digest the material, "they will stand up for people who are being oppressed." (No Trump book reports, though.)

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