A Virginia Judge has ordered teen vandals to read and study the issues of race, anti-semitism, and gender equality as part of their sentence. The teenagers were caught vandalizing the Ashburn Colored School marking it with swastikas, and the words “white power,” among other things. Many view their actions of vandalism as disrespectful to a landmark of Virginia’s rich history.


The little one room school was founded in 1892 so that black children would have a place to learn. While it is no longer used for the purpose for which it was built, some Virginia residents are interested in preserving it. The act of vandalism only strengthened their resolve to do that, and they have raised a substantial amount of money towards their effort.  


County Prosecutor Alex Rueda believed the sentence in reading would help the teenagers learn, and reflect on their actions, better than jail would. She said the five teenagers charged were just “dumb.” They had no prior record, and had never been in trouble before. It is her hope they will read and study the books and gain knowledge they never had before, and maybe even pass on what they have learned.


Instead of putting the teens into the system, this judge sentenced them to a reading list.

The sentence is to choose a book from the list of 35 books, and write a monthly book report about it. Three of the books may be substituted for a film review about the same subject matter. The book list includes “The Color Purple” by Alice Walker, “The Rape of Nanking” by Iris Chang, “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee, and “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison, to name a few.


The chances are good that the teens involved have never read any of the books on the list. These books will offer a new perspective on life both as an American citizen, and as a human being. It is hoped the teens will gain insight on how to treat others who are different. It will be interesting to see how the teenagers fare in keeping pace with their sentences which includes reading and a lot of writing. Rueda is aware that it is possible that not all of the teens will begin appreciating diversity as a result of their sentence. However, if just one of the teens begins to see the world a little differently, it will be a mission accomplished.


What do you think of think of the judge’s sentence? Harsh enough? Let’s discuss here or on Twitter: @lcarterwriter.