Things That Matter

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.

Credit: juanonimo/ Getty Images

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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The Father And Son Who Killed Ahmaud Arbery Don’t Want Him To Be Called A “Victim” In Upcoming Court Case

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The Father And Son Who Killed Ahmaud Arbery Don’t Want Him To Be Called A “Victim” In Upcoming Court Case

Sean Rayford / Getty Images

The men who murdered Ahmaud Arbery have some outrageous requests for their upcoming murder trial that really show just how far many will go protect white supremacy.

Despite their being video evidence of them chasing and shooting Arbery, the father and son are requesting that Arbery never be referred to as a victim. What the actual f***?!

Arbery’s killers are asking a judge to prohibit referring to Arbery as a “victim.”

The men responsible for Ahmaud Arbery’s death have a litany of requests for their upcoming murder trial – notably, they don’t want the word “victim” uttered in court while referring to the man they murdered.

Defense attorneys for Travis and Greg McMichael – the father and son who chased Arbery down with their truck and then proceeded to shoot and kill him in a struggle – have filed new motions in their trial. They want to prohibit the prosecution from ever referring to Arbery as a victim in front of the jury, because they say that’s a conclusion that can’t be reached before a verdict.

“The purpose of this motion is to prevent the prosecution from ignoring its duty to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that crimes were actually committed and that the McMichaels committed the crimes as charged,” states the four-page motion, signed by lawyers Franklin and Laura Hogue, Robert Rubin and Jason Sheffield.

According to the motion, the McMichaels argue no crime has been committed – remember, they’ve pled not guilty and argued self-defense. As a result, they say “loaded words” like “victim” might prejudice jurors against them from the jump.

But there’s more: his killers are asking the judge to only allow one photo of Arbery.

Their unbelievable antics don’t stop with the word “victim.” Defense attorneys are also requesting that only one “in life” photograph be permitted at trial to depict Arbery – and that the photo show him alone without any family members or friends. Not just that, but the defense asks that no family member of his be able to identify him in court, they want that done by an unrelated, third party witness, if necessary.

The reason: they argue too many photos of Arbery will create an ingrained bias in the jury’s collective mind, and paint him as a sympathetic character. They say they don’t want his family involved in ID’ing either because of possible emotional outbursts, which may also affect the jurors. So in other words, the McMichaels want this as sterile as possible.

One last thing: the McMichaels have asked that Black Lives Matter face masks not be permitted in court, that any jail calls they’ve made be stricken as usable evidence, but that Ahmaud’s criminal record be admissible. Again, what the actual f***?!

Arbery’s murder made headlines over the summer as he was chased and gunned down while out on a jog.

Credit: Sean Rayford / Getty Images

Arbery was killed on 23 February last year in Brunswick, Georgia, while out jogging. Prosecutors allege that Gregory McMichael, 64, a retired police detective, and his son Travis, 34, chased Arbery in their truck and initiated a confrontation that ended with Travis McMichael shooting Arbery dead.

Arbery’s killing sparked outrage in the local community and nationally, particularly after it was revealed that local law enforcement initially refused to arrest the suspects and a prosecutor, who later recused himself, wrote a memorandum explaining why he believed the killing was legally justified.

The McMichaels told detectives they believed Arbery, a trained electrician, was responsible for a string of burglaries in their neighbourhood, and merely wanted to ask him about them. They were arrested more than two months after the shooting, when the Georgia Bureau of Investigation took over the case.

A judge has yet to weigh in, and a trial date isn’t set.

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Two Teen Girls Died in a Suspicious House Fire During a Sleepover After a Quinceañera; Police Suspect Foul Play

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Two Teen Girls Died in a Suspicious House Fire During a Sleepover After a Quinceañera; Police Suspect Foul Play

CREDIT: CITY OF FREDERICKSBURG POLICE DEPARTMENT

On November 22nd, Lisa Treviño received news that is every mother’s worst nightmare. Police officers came to Treviño’s house and informed her that two teenage girls had died in a fire at a nearby apartment.

One of the girls was her daughter, 15-year-old Azalyia “YaYa” Hernandez. The other victim was her friend, 16-year-old Eliza “Ellie” Maurer.

Pictured: Azalyia Hernandez. Credit: Britny Cranford via GoFundMe

The girls were sophomores at Fredericksburg High School. The night started out like a typical weekend for any teenager: Hernandez told her mother that she was going to go to a sleepover with Maurer after they had both attended a quinceañera with her family earlier that day.

“I’m the type that when my kids aren’t at home, I’m the type that calls them. And I can’t go to sleep until I hear from them that they’re okay,” Treviño told Spectrum News 1. “I told her, ‘Okay, Azalyia, make good choices, think good choices and I love you.’ And the last text I got, ‘I will mom. I love you too.'” That was the last communication Treviño had with her daughter.

The Maurer family is also coping with their grief. They released a statement, saying: “We are shocked and devastated at the news of our daughter’s death. Ellie (Eliza) was a beautiful child. She loved playing basketball and volleyball. She had a spunky personality and was a social butterfly. Ellie was loved by her friends and family. We still cannot believe this happened. We have been so blessed by the outpouring of support by friends, family and the community and we are incredibly thankful for that.”

Pictured: Eliza Maurer; Credit: @1.ellie.m/Instagram

According to the Sorola-Treviño family, police suspect foul play was involved.

“As with all deaths, they are treated as a homicide until proven otherwise,” said Fredericksburg Chief of Police Steven Wetz to Spectrum News 1.

According to Treviño, police told her that the girls’ bodies were found in a bedroom. The Fredericksburg Police Department says that the primary causes of both deaths was smoke inhalation. Evidence points to the fire having been started on a couch.

“The very first thing that they told us was that they found them nude and that there was foul play, and there was some suspects who had run from the apartment,” said Gary Sorola, Hernandez’s stepfather, to Fox 7 Austin.

It is still unknown why the girls were at the apartment building, but the Sorola-Treviño family say that the girls knew the son of the woman who rents the apartment.

The Fredericksburg community is shaken by the death of the two girls. Both of the girls’ families are devastated. The victims’ families and friends said the two girls had big plans for the future. Ellie wanted to become a lawyer, while YaYa wanted to join the Air Force and work with K-9s before becoming a nurse.

December 14th would have been Azalyia’s 16th birthday. But now, her mother will have to endure what should have been a happy day without her daughter.

“Now she’s gone and I’m not gonna have a chance to ever see her grow or accomplish what she wanted to accomplish. She’s gone. They took her from me too young,” Treviño said.

Police are asking anyone with information about the night in question (November 21st) to come forward. Contact them at 830-997-7585 or call Crime Stoppers at 997-8477 (TIPS).

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