Judge finds bathroom graffiti violated civil rights act, orders teen to write essay

MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) — A New Hampshire teenager has been ordered to write a 3,000-word essay discussing “the impact of racism and racist speech on society” after a judge found that he violated the state's civil rights act by carving graffiti inside a high school bathroom directed at a Black teen.

In the order filed Wednesday, the judge said the 17-year-old must also do 100 hours of community service to avoid a $3,500 fine. He also was forbidden from engaging in or threatening physical force or violence against the victim and his family, or anyone else, or damage or trespass on their property.

His lawyer did not respond to a message seeking comment. Prosecutors had asked for a $5,000 fine, the maximum penalty.

Judge Amy Messer found that the teen carved “Blacks stand no chance,” and part of “KKK” on a bathroom stall at John Stark Regional High School in Weare in April 2022. There already was other race-motivated graffiti on the wall and the name of a Black student who was ”purportedly" one of the defendant's friends, she wrote.

An attorney for the teen, who had faced a separate charge on the matter in juvenile court, argued he wasn't motivated by race because he thought it was a joke, and that two other friends had pressured him into writing the graffiti. The lawyer also argued the words themselves “are not egregious and are historically accurate and not racially motivated,” according to Messer.

Prosecutors said the words are “steeped in race.”

Messer said she was ”not convinced that the defendant was motivated to make a reflection of historical fact about the plight of Blacks in America in a public high school bathroom where racially charged graffiti already existed.”