(JTA) — The 14 male students who sprayed a swastika and anti-gay slurs on the side of their Boston-area high school can go through a “restorative justice process” instead of being criminally prosecuted.
The vandalism, using the spray from fire extinguishers at Arlington High School, occurred on May 2. The vandals also shattered the glass of vending machines and display cases.
The school district and police department consulted with the Arlington Human Rights Commission, the Anti-Defamation League, and the Arlington LGBTQIA+ Rainbow Commission to decide on a response to the attack, the Boston television station WHDH Channel 7 reported.
Under the restorative justice process, the victims of the crime will be given an opportunity to meet with the vandals, allowing the teens to better understand the impact of their actions and to make amends as well as financial restitution. The offenders will work directly with the school community, the Jewish community and the LGBTQIA+ community throughout the process.
Those who choose not to participate in the process will be prosecuted and face the possibility of a criminal record. The students also face possible disciplinary action from the Arlington Public Schools, including suspension or being excluded from senior class events.
“What occurred earlier this month was deeply upsetting on a multitude of levels, and it does not represent either the image we have in mind for our community or the beliefs of our residents and young people. While the actions of a few students are truly heinous, we have the chance now to emerge stronger than ever before as a community, and the plan our leadership team has put forward says in a clear voice that we intend to do just that,” said a statement issued jointly by town leaders and the heads of the Human Rights Commission and the LGBTQIA+ Rainbow Commission.
“In Arlington, we do not run from a crisis; we embrace it as an opportunity to be better and do better. With restorative justice, we seek to foster a frank and honest dialogue of how we treat each other. If we can all learn how and why this happened, perhaps we can prevent it from happening again,” the statement said.