What bothers me about the whole Jena 6 thing is that it is so ... needless.
We'll put the racist DA to the side for the moment.
Mistake 1: When a new black student approached the principal and asked if he could sit under what had traditionally been a "whites only" tree, this was a powerful opportunity for the educator. Imagine a well-organized school assembly, where students are encouraged to talk about traditional assumptions. Where they are challenged to overcome those assumptions. A little bit of discussion about "olden times" wouldn't hurt, either.
Mistake 2: Kids are stupid. Not all of them, but as a group, yeah, I'll stand by this statement. IT IS OUR JOB, as adults, educators, parents, police, to TEACH THEM to face consequences. Notice: I did not say "ruin their lives." Teach them. You haul the offenders down to the jail, make their parents bail them out, then have a judge who gives them a stern talking-to and assigns them to something clever, like writing essays about prominent African-American heroes, and doing community service at an after-school program for underprivileged children (heavily supervised). The judge also calls all the parents forward and questions whether they think this is just a "prank." He/she dresses them down, too. In short, you scare them straight, both kids and parents.
Mistake 3: The community should have responded. I'm sure someone could have thought of something poetic -- how about a line of adults standing in front of the school the following Monday morning, (after the nooses) holding up posters that say, "Jena is Not a Town of Hate"?
Mistake 4: There were so many injustices throughout this, I won't go into them all, other than to mention they arrested the students who took away another student's gun (that he threatened them with), but did nothing to him? REALLY??? Oh, dear God.
Mistake 5: The assault on the white student, for which the Jena 6 were arrested. They should have been arrested, absolutely. See Mistake 2. But the goal should have been to scare them straight, NOT to make an example of them, or ruin their lives, or both.
There were many other mistakes that others can comment on, like the media ignoring it. But a fundamental issue in this is the grownups -- parents, teachers, etc --
They failed them. White students and black, they failed them.