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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ICE Is Offering A Master Class To The Public On How To Handle Weapons And Arrest Immigrants

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ICE Is Offering A Master Class To The Public On How To Handle Weapons And Arrest Immigrants

Gregory Bull / Getty Images

By mid-October, there could be professionally trained armies of ordinary citizens patrolling the streets looking to arrest immigrants. And they’d be doing the dirty work of ICE – which has launched a program in Chicago specifically to help train and equip the public on the skills and knowledge needed to do it effectively.

According to ICE, the program is little more than a chance to educate and enlighten the public on the challenges the agency faces on a daily basis. They claim that their work is grossly misunderstood. Yet the description of the six-week-long program literally describes familiarizing recruits with firearms and how to make targeted arrests.

Chicago’s ICE office announced a “citizen’s academy” to teach the public on how to arrest immigrants.

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency is launching a class for private citizens in Chicago on how to arrest undocumented immigrants.

The course, which begins on September 15 and will run one class a week for six weeks, will train non-agents in firearms, defensive training and how to make ‘targeted arrests.’ ICE plan to roll out the program to cities across the country.

The Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) Chicago Citizens Academy is a six-week program modeled after similar trainings held by other law enforcement agencies. ICE will select 10 to 12 participants for the training, which is set to start in September.

Many Chicagoans have received letters inviting them to apply. During the program, according to the letter, “participants will gain insight into the many facets and responsibilities of ICE/ERO operations, and hopefully an awareness and appreciation of the issues our officers face every day in the performance of their duties.”

But immigration activists aren’t buying the story ICE wants to tell.

Several of Chicago’s elected officials have come out strongly against the program, saying there is no room for this academy in the city of Chicago.

“I think it’s outrageous that they are trying to do this in Chicago. This is a sanctuary city that we’ve fought so hard for,” said Alderwoman Rossana Rodriguez, in an interview with Fox 11.

Rodriguez read the letter and said she was concerned about the language in the letter, which reads, in part, “attendees will participate in scenario-based training and exercises conducted in a safe and positive environment, including, but not limited to defensive tactics, firearms familiarization, and targeted arrests.”

“What it sounds like to me is a vigilante academy,” Rodriguez said. “We need to be educating the community so that they don’t sign up for it. I think the city needs to speak out against this programming. This isn’t welcomed in Chicago.”

Congressman Jesús ‘Chuy’ García, wonders if the course is part of ICE’s plan to have neighbors spy on others to see if they’re undocumented and report back to the agency.

Although the program is outrageous, it’s been taking place in Los Angeles for years.

The program was just announced in Chicago last week but it has been in operation for several years in other cities across the country. In fact, Los Angeles – another sanctuary city – has had a similar academy in place since 2016. However, unlike Chicago’s program which will be run by the ERO, LA’s program is managed by ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) division.

Regardless of who is running the program, many are rightfully worried about its implications. Silky Shah, executive director of Detention Watch Network, said in a statement, “ICE is recruiting an army of ‘citizens’ to fuel its propaganda machine and forge hatred in our communities. The outcome of this program will be more terror unleashed upon immigrant communities and people of color.”

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A New Law Targets ‘Karens’ And Could Finally Make Their Behavior A Crime

Things That Matter

A New Law Targets ‘Karens’ And Could Finally Make Their Behavior A Crime

@rmtennell / @melodyMcooper / @jaimetoons / Twitter

The ‘Karen’ meme has exploded across the Internet, as entitled white people have terrorized Black and Brown people across the country. It’s a meme that makes light of their ridiculous behavior, but it’s also shining a light on the larger issue of racism and racial inequality in the United States.

Although many of the videos rack up millions of views, it’s important to remember that many of the actions these ‘Karens’ take against people of color are actually threatening the lives of these same people. One false phone call to the police accusing a Black man of harassment can lead to his death at the hands of racist policing.

Now, elected officials across the country are thinking of ways to hold Karen (and her male counterpart, ‘Ken’) accountable for putting Black and Brown lives in jeopardy.

San Francisco introduced the first ever CAREN Act – which would hold Karens responsible for their dangerous actions.

Following a spate of high-profile 911 calls against people of color, San Francisco Supervisor Shamann Walton on Tuesday introduced an ordinance that would make discriminatory calls for police illegal.

Walton dubbed the ordinance the CAREN Act (Caution Against Racially Exploitative Non-Emergencies), in an apparent nod to the popularized slang name that refers to an entitled white woman complaining about people of color. The legislation would amend the San Francisco Police Code to make it unlawful for someone to “fabricate false racially biased emergency reports,” according to a news release from Walton.

“Racist 911 calls are unacceptable that’s why I’m introducing the CAREN Act at today’s SF Board of Supervisors meeting,” Walton tweeted. “This is the CAREN we need.”

Making a false police report is already illegal but Walton’s bill would also make it illegal to fabricate a report based on someone’s race, ethnicity, religious affiliation, gender or sexual orientation.

San Francisco is just the latest city to consider such legislation.

The San Francisco CAREN bill comes just after a similar bill was introduced in California’s State Assembly by Rob Bonta. His bill would classify discriminatory 911 calls as a hate crime in the state. 

Meanwhile, on the other coast, New York state lawmakers approved legislation last month that allows people “a private right of action” if they believe someone called a police officer on them because of their race, gender or nationality. The move by New York came after Amy Cooper, a white woman in New York City, gained national attention after a video went viral of her calling the police on a Black birdwatcher in Central Park.

In 2019, the City Commission in Grand Rapids, Michigan, held a public hearing on a “proposed human rights ordinance” criminalizing racially motivated calls to 911 with a fine of up to $500.

And in Los Angeles, the city council is exploring “criminal penalties, rights of victims to bring private civil actions and cost recovery by the City,” he tweeted.

These new bills and proposals come in the wake of countless incidents involving white people falsely accusing Black and Brown people of all sorts of activities.

Credit: @rmtennell / @melodyMcooper / @jaimetoons/ Twitter

Just a few weeks ago, a white hotel employee in North Carolina called the police on a guest, a Black woman and her children, who were using the hotel’s swimming pool. A white woman also pulled a gun on a Black woman and her daughter. Then there was the woman in an LA suburb who took hammers to her neighbor’s car and told them to “go back to Mexico.”

But few are as famous as Amy Cooper – or Central Park Karen – who called the cops on a Black birdwatcher, accusing him of harassing her.

Unfortunately, the Karen phenomenon isn’t an isolated occurrence – it’s an everyday one for millions of Black and Brown Americans.

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