Arlington school and police officials said today they will offer "restorative justice" to the 14 teens IDed as the people who vandalized Arlington High School and spray-painted swastikas and anti-gay slurs on the building on May 2.
Instead of facing criminal prosecution, the teens will be offered a chance at a three-phase program:
Victims of crime are given the opportunity to address those who have harmed them, to ask questions in a safe environment, and to share ideas on ways that the harm can be repaired.
Offenders better understand the impact of their actions, are held accountable, make financial restitution and encouraged to make amends to those they have harmed.
The community offers support for the process, strengthening community connections, and engaging in matters of concern to its members.
Most importantly, restorative justice requires buy-in from both the offenders and the victims in a given situation. The offenders would be working directly with members of the school community, Jewish community, and LGBTQIA+ community on a long-term process.
The students still face school discipline, up to suspension and being barred from school events, such as the senior prom, officials said.
In a statement, they added:
We recognize that it is faster and easier to arrest and prosecute these individuals rather than go through the restorative justice process, which requires more of a commitment from the offender. However, we believe that this proposed solution will bring everyone into the same room and provide opportunities for long-term growth, education, healing, and a repair of this breach in our community.
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.
Offenders who reject the program will instead face possible criminal prosecution, officials said.