Letter from one of last year’s student vandals apologizes to the GHS students and community

On the night of May 12, 2019, two Godwin students spray-painted hateful symbols on the front of Godwin.
The vandalism included racist and threatening symbols that shocked not only Godwin students but the community as a
“When I first heard of the symbols spray-painted on the school, I was shocked and disheartened,” said Godwin senior Sarah
After an investigation, the students responsible were arrested and brought to Henrico County Jail.
As a part of one of the student’s court-mandated punishments, a restorative justice circle was formed. The restorative justice
circle is where the letter below originated.
Restorative justice is a practice where someone who has committed a crime against the community gets together with
community members to attempt to make amends with those who were affected.
According to Godwin principal Leigh Dunavant, “Restorative justice is an ancient thing, so for years and years, we’ve done circles where humans can get back together and make amends with each other. The idea is that someone who has scarred the
community or done something wrong to the community then comes back to the community, talks about it with them, hears how it
affected the community, and then expresses their remorse for what they did.”
This restorative justice circle was comprised of the student who committed the vandalism, Dunavant, the student’s teachers,
and the maintenance and the custodial team involved in cleaning up the graffiti.
In addition, there was a student from each of the groups targeted in the vandalism, including one from the Jewish Student
Union (JSA), Center for Medical Sciences, and Black Student Union.
“The job of the circle was to come up with how the student could make amends with the community,” said Dunavant.
The circle came up with three different things the student could do to make amends with the community.
These included community services, research into the various cultures affected by the vandalism, and then the apology letter
below to the community as a whole.
“The restorative justice circle was one part of [the student’s] sentence from the judge, but that also included multiple other things. [The student] was also taken to Henrico County Jail, has counseling services, and an alternative education plan,” said
While the letter is a step towards the student who vandalized the school reconciling with the community, by no means does
Dunavant expects every student to forgive the vandal because of the letter.
“I don’t expect anyone to heal, and of course I would never force anyone to heal. But when someone does
apologize and recognize that they have done something wrong, it makes healing a little easier,” said
Editors note: It is Eagles’ Eyrie policy not to identify minors or current students charged with a crime. Additionally, the letter here is printed as originally submitted to the Eagles’ Eyrie. No edits or revisions have been made.

“I am seventeen, so I am still trying to figure some things out about myself. This letter is a means to take responsibility for my actions. Here is my situation. On the night of May 11th, I went to Godwin high school and I spray painted hateful symbols on the school walls. Symbols I have now learned are not only hateful but could create a lot of pain for those who witnessed them.
After I spray painted on the school, I went home. The next thing I remember, I was pulled out of class and questioned. I had confessed to what I had done and the police were contacted. The morning of the next day, I was arrested and taken to juvenile detention.
Since then, I have learned a lot. I learned a lot about the court system and about the kinds up kids, I was locked up with. I learned a lot about the different cultures present all around me, and learned how my actions impacted their daily lives. Finally, I learned just how strong words really are.

This letter is an important part of me taking responsibility for my actions. I want to face my actions for what they did to the community, and challenge myself to change my future actions. It
will be a very long time before I can forgive myself and stop feeling remorse for my actions. I’m not very sure how I can repair damages, I’m still trying to repair myself. I cannot go back in the past and change anything, but one thing I can change is my future. I know I messed up, and I’m not going to make a similar mistake again. Sorry for all the trouble I’ve caused, it must have been a trainwreck because of what I did.”

One reply on “Letter from one of last year’s student vandals apologizes to the GHS students and community”

Dear Editor,

I would like to commend you and your staff on an exemplary, very professional student newspaper of which you should all be very proud. The edition has a professional layout, well-written articles, well-composed photos, and the online version is easy to navigate. During my high school years at Douglas Freeman, I was on the staff of their newspaper, “The Commentator “, which was an award-winning student newspaper. Your newspaper is also worthy of awards, and I hope the community appreciates your work and talent. Thank you for making this available to everyone online.

Mary Ann Riter

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