A 15-year-old Michigan girl was sent to juvenile detention after a judge ruled that she violated probation when she failed to complete her online coursework, according to a new report.
The girl, identified only as Grace, has been incarcerated since May when the judge revoked her probation for her “failure to submit to any schoolwork and getting up for school” during the coronavirus pandemic, ProPublica reported Tuesday.
The girl’s mom and advocates have accused the court of racial bias against Grace, a black special-needs student with ADHD living in a predominantly white village of Beverly Hills.
“Who can even be a good student right now?” Ricky Watson Jr., executive director of the National Juvenile Justice Network, told ProPublica. “Unless there is an urgent need, I don’t understand why you would be sending a kid to any facility right now and taking them away from their families with all that we are dealing with right now.”
Grace was placed on probation after two incidents dating back to last fall. On Nov. 6, the cops were called after she bit her mom’s finger and pulled her hair over a dispute about going to a friend’s house, the outlet reported.
Several weeks later, she was caught on surveillance footage stealing another student’s cellphone from a school locker room, according to ProPublica. The phone was then returned to the school-mate.
Grace hasn’t broken the law again — but she has struggled with learning, missing class and work after her school transitioned to online courses on April 15, the outlet reported. ProPublica couldn’t find another example of a student being incarcerated for failing to do school work.
Judge Mary Ellen Brennan, the presiding judge of the Oakland County Family Court Division, called Grace a “threat to [the] community” when she sentenced her to juvenile detention on May 14, according to the outlet.
“She hasn’t fulfilled the expectation with regard to school performance,” Brennan said during the sentencing. “I told her she was on thin ice and I told her that I was going to hold her to the letter, to the order, of the probation.”
But Grace’s teacher has come to her defense, arguing that her performance during the pandemic was “not out of alignment with most of my other students” who are trying to adjust to remote classes.
The ruling has left Grace’s mother, identified only as Charisse, completely distraught.
“It just doesn’t make any sense,” Charisse told ProPublica, crying after one of her visits to see Grace.
“Every day I go to bed thinking, and wake up thinking, ‘How is this a better situation for her?’”
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