After spray-painting racist graffiti, teenagers sentenced to book reports, museum visits

The juvenile defendants must write monthly book reports.
The juvenile defendants were sentenced to write monthly book reports as part of their punishment.
Ryan Hyde | Creative Commons via Flickr

Five teenagers in Loudoun County, Va., have received an unusual sentence for vandalizing a historic building with swastikas and messages of white power.

They've been ordered to write book reports.

The sentence came after they entered guilty pleas for spray-painting graffiti on the historic black schoolhouse, which was once the Ashburn Colored School.

The teenagers must complete probation, in addition to a number of educational requirements, according to a release from the Loudon County Attorney's Office.

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They have been ordered to visit the United States Holocaust Museum and the American History Museum's "The Day of Remembrance: The 75th Anniversary of Executive Order 9066" exhibit, which tells the story of Japanese internment camps in the United States. They must write a research paper addressing the history of vandalism to African-American schools and churches. And they all have to write one book report every month for the next 12 months, from an approved list of titles.

The titles, the release notes, "were chosen based on their literary significance and/or their subject matter content surrounding race, religion and discrimination." They range from Elie Wiesel's Holocaust memoir "Night" to the book club favorite "The Help," which itself has been accused of downplaying the harsh realities of Jim Crow. The book list has three books by Leon Uris alone, as well as titles from Hannah Arendt, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Ernest Hemingway and Colson Whitehead.

In the release, Commonwealth Attorney Jim Plowman said the teenagers "did not fully appreciate the significance or the meaning of what they were drawing on the building." The graffiti included "white power," as well as "brown power," sexual images and dinosaurs. Of the five defendants, three are minorities.

"We are seizing the opportunity to treat this as an educational experience for these young men so they may better appreciate the significance of their actions and the impact this type of behavior has on communities and has had throughout history," Plowman said.

Approved books for the Loudon County book report sentence

1) "The Color Purple" by Alice Walker

2) "Native Son" by Richard Wright

3) "Exodus" by Leon Uris

4) "Mila 18" by Leon Uris

5) "Trinity" by Leon Uris

6) "My Name is Asher Lev" by Chaim Potok

7) "The Chosen" by Chaim Potok

8) "The Sun Also Rises" by Ernest Hemingway

9) "Night" by Elie Wiesel

10) "The Crucible" by Arthur Miller

11) "The Kite Runner" by Khaled Hosseini

12) "A Thousand Splendid Suns" by Khaled Hosseini

13) "Things Falls Apart" by Chinua Achebe

14) "The Handmaid's Tale" by Margaret Atwood

15) "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee

16) "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" by Maya Angelou

17) "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" by Rebecca Skloot

18) "Caleb's Crossing" by Geraldine Brooks

19) "Tortilla Curtain" by T.C. Boyle

20) "The Bluest Eye" by Toni Morrison

21) "A Hope in the Unseen" by Ron Suskind

22) "Down These Mean Streets" by Piri Thomas

23) "Black Boy" by Richard Wright

24) "The Beautiful Struggle" by Ta Nehisi Coats

25) "The Banality of Evil" by Hannah Arendt

26) "The Underground Railroad" by Colson Whitehead

27) "Reading Lolita in Tehran" by Azar Nafisi

28) "The Rape of Nanking" by Iris Chang

29) "Infidel" by Ayaan Hirsi Ali

30) "The Orphan Master's Son" by Adam Johnson

31) "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett

32) "Cry the Beloved Country" by Alan Patton

33) "Too Late the Phalarope" by Alan Patton

34) "A Dry White Season" by Andre Brink

35) "Ghost Soldiers" by Hampton Sides