By Brenna R. Kelly
Enquirer staff writer
When Anne Schwartz heard about the cross-burning in her hometown of Burlington, she was furious.
But when she learned the 18-year-old accused in the hate crime was a fellow student at Conner High School, she decided to do something.
"You know those billboards about drugs (that say) 'Not in my neighborhood'? That's how I felt about it," said Schwartz, 18, who graduated from Conner this year.
Today in Covington, Schwartz and several friends plan to gather signatures on a petition calling for tougher hate-crime laws in Kentucky and urging schools to teach students about modern bigotry.
She's also started an online petition that had 30 signatures Thursday afternoon.
Students learn about the civil-rights movement in history class, she said, but they don't learn about modern hate groups or the effects of racism today.
She plans to send the petitions to local and state lawmakers.
State prosecutors have decided to turn the Burlington case over to federal authorities because of Kentucky's weak hate-crime laws.
The state's hate-crime law doesn't allow for an increased penalty other than in decisions about probation or parole.
Matthew Scudder, 18, of Burlington, and Jimmy D. Foster, 19, of Independence were charged July 16 with conspiracy to violate civil rights.
Federal prosecutors say Scudder and a juvenile built a 3-foot cross and set it on fire in the yard of Frederick Mahone's Rosetta Drive home July 2. The next night, the pair was joined by at least two others, including Foster. Scudder and at least one juvenile tossed bricks through the windows of Mahone's family car and yelled racial epithets, authorities said.
Schwartz said she was shocked to hear that Scudder, whom she remembered at Conner High School with spiky hair and a fondness for punk music, was one of the accused. "We didn't really expect that to be his thing," she said. "He was trying to be the alternative kid."
Schwartz said she and her friends decided to try to unite people against hate crimes so that everyone will know it's not accepted in Boone County.
"We don't want this to be the idea of cool in our hometown," she said.
People will be gathering signatures today in MainStrasse Village at 4 p.m. To sign the petition go to www.petitiononline.com/859nohte/petition.html
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