The 15-Year-Old Girl Jailed In Michigan For Not Doing Her Homework Is Set To Be Released
Update July 31, 2020: Grace, the teenager jailed in Michigan for not doing her online homework is being released. The arrest of the 15-year-old stunned the nation after she was sent to jail during a pandemic, risking her life and health.
News broke on Twitter that Grace, the Michigan teenager who was jailed for not doing her homework, has been released.
According to a tweet bu journalist Jodi Cohen, who broke the story when Grace went to jail, a judge ordered the immediate release of the girl. The order came from the Michigan Court of Appeals after Judge Mary Ellen Brennan and Prosecutor Jessica Cooper refused to release the girl. It is an election year and activists are calling on voters to remember their actions and vote accordingly.
In Michigan, judges were told to limit the number of people in prisons in jails to prevent Covid-19 infections from exploding in prison settings. This is what angered classmates and community members when the teenager was arrested and refused release under the protocols.
Original: As the Coronavirus pandemic set in across the country, schools from Maine to Hawaii began cancelling in-person classes. Although this was seen as a critical step in combatting the spread of the virus, it also caused student participation to plummet.
Some students — in particular, those from low-income families — lacked adequate access to computers and Wi-Fi to complete their online coursework. Children with disabilities, who often require more in-person support, also struggled to adjust to the abrupt transition to remote learning. But participation issues were widespread: In early April, according to the New York Times, teachers in districts across the country were reporting that fewer than half of their students were routinely participating in virtual learning.
Yet despite how common school-participation issues have been amid the pandemic, not all cases have been treated equally.
The Michigan student was incarcerated for not completing her online coursework when her school switched to remote learning.
According to a report from ProPublica, Grace, who is 15 and has ADHD, said she felt unmotivated and overwhelmed when online learning began after schools closed due to coronavirus. Without much live instruction or structure, she was easily distracted and had difficulty keeping herself on track, something that many students can relate to these days.
Since May, the teen has been held in custody at the Children’s Village juvenile detention center outside Detroit, after a Michigan judge said she violated her probation order by not doing her schoolwork.
In a court hearing in May, a judge ruled that she found Grace “guilty on failure to submit to any schoolwork and getting up for school” and called Grace a “threat to (the) community,” citing previous charges the teen incurred. “She hasn’t fulfilled the expectation with regard to school performance,” Brennan said as she sentenced Grace. “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.”
Grace’s mother, identified only as Carissa, later said she told the case worker about Grace’s issues with virtual learning but that Grace had been working hard to stay on top of her work under less than ideal circumstances. When remote learning began, she no longer had the support system, her mother said.
Grace had been on probation for a theft and assault but hadn’t violated any terms of her probation.
Grace was previously placed on probation following a fight with her mother and petty theft on school property. However, the judge later decided to incarcerate the teen, not for any additional behavioral issues, but because of an alleged failure to do her school work.
Grace’s case worker, Rachel Giroux, filed a violation of probation against her for not doing her schoolwork. Giroux told the prosecutor she planned to ask the judge to detain Grace because she “clearly doesn’t want to abide by the rules in the community,” according to the case notes.
Giroux filed the violation of probation before confirming with Grace’s teacher whether or not she was meeting her academic requirements. Grace’s teacher, Katherine Tarpeh, responded in an email to Giroux that the teenager was “not out of alignment with most of my other students.”
At a recent court hearing, the judge failed to let Grace out of detention despite having made immense progress.
This week at an additional hearing, the Judge overseeing Grace’s case denied her emergency request for early release.
“She is a threat of harm under our current circumstances without the mental health treatment she needs, and interventions so she can get a handle on herself,” said Judge Mary Ellen Brennan. According to Michigan Radio, she told Grace, “There is not a question in my mind, if I were to grant the request to release you home today, I would be making a mistake, and I would be doing you a disservice.”
Since Grace’s story made national headlines, nearly 93,000 have signed a Change.org petition “Stop the School to Prison Pipeline – Free Grace from Incarceration.” Unfortunately Brennan explicitly stated in court on Monday, “I will not be swayed by partisan interests, public clamor, or fear of public criticism. And I am going to uphold my oath.”
It’s now been over a month since Grace’s mother has been able to see her. The 15-year-old is not scheduled to be released any time soon, despite Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s call for juvenile detention to be suspended in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Grace’s next court date isn’t until September, meaning she’ll likely spend another two months away from her family.
“It just doesn’t make any sense,” Grace’s mother tells ProPublica. “Every day I go to bed thinking, and wake up thinking, ‘How is this a better situation for her?’”
Reactions across the Internet have been quick to condemn the failures once again of a justice system that treats Black Americans differently.
As ProPublica points out, Grace’s case is just one example of the many ways Black students are disproportionately targeted and incarcerated by the juvenile “justice” system.
“It is clear that kids of color are disproportionately involved and impacted by the system across the board,” Jason Smith, who works for the nonprofit Michigan Center for Youth Justice, told the outlet. “They are more likely to be arrested, less likely to be offered any kind of diversion, more likely to be removed out of the home and placed in some sort of confinement situation.”
People like Kim Kardashian are now calling attention to Grace’s incarceration and calling for reform.
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