ASHBURN, Va. (AP) — Five teens who spray-painted racist graffiti on a 19th century schoolhouse that served black children during the segregation era in northern Virginia have been ordered to learn lessons about racial and religious discrimination.
The boys, all of whom are 16 or 17, must visit the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and write reports on books written by black, Jewish and Afghan authors, news outlets reported.
Prosecutors don't think the vandalism of the former Ashburn Colored School last fall was racially motivated. Three of the teens are minorities.
The graffiti included swastikas and references to "white power." Officials said one boy also marked the walls with "BROWN POWER." None have been in trouble with the law before.
"It really seemed to be a teachable moment. None of them seemed to appreciate — until all of this blew up in the newspapers — the seriousness of what they had done," Loudoun County Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Alex Rueda said.
According to Rueda, the boys targeted the building because it is owned by the Loudoun School for the Gifted, and one boy had left the private school on unfavorable terms.
"So it really seemed to be an opportunity to teach them about race, religion, discrimination, all of those things," Rueda said.
The teens pleaded guilty Wednesday to destruction of property and unlawful entry charges. They also must write a research paper on hate speech and listen to an interview with a former student of the one-room schoolhouse where African-American children were taught up until the 1950s.