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Hundreds Protest After Black Teen Is Sentenced To Juvenile Detention For Not Doing Her Online Schoolwork

Hundreds of people gathered in front of a Michigan courthouse to demand that a Black teenager who was sent to juvenile detention for not completing her online schoolwork be freed.

The high school sophomore, referred to only as Grace in reports, was put in the Oakland County, Michigan, facility in May after her caseworker learned she’d gone to sleep, instead of doing her schoolwork, following the teen’s check-in by phone, according to ProPublica’s report. After discovering what had happened, the caseworker filed a violation of probation.

Grace has been in juvenile detention since May when a judge ruled she violated her probation by not completing her online schoolwork.

In April, Grace was placed on probation and part of the requirements of that probation was doing her homework as schools went online. Her mother told ProPublica how big of a challenge this was as her daughter had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and had already been struggling with behavioral issues.

“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 had been on probation after she bit her mom’s finger during a dispute last November and after being charged with larceny when she was allegedly caught on a surveillance camera stealing a student’s cellphone from a backpack on the school campus.

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 ProPublica.

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“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.”

Michigan congressman Andy Levin was one of those who condemned the girl’s sentencing.

“Unfortunately, this case is reflective of the harsh penalties children of color face throughout Michigan and the United States when dealing with the criminal justice system,” Levin said.

“In our state, Black children are incarcerated at four times the rate of white children. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is tragic to see the criminal justice system follow Black youth into their homes.”

Prudence Canter, 18, a graduating senior at the school, told Reuters it is clear that Grace has been treated disproportionally.

“A lot of people were behind on their work this semester, no one had motivation to do anything because the teachers weren’t teaching and we were all online. I know so many people that didn’t do their homework,” she said.

In a statement, Oakland County Executive David Coulter said he has spoken with Judge Brennan and called for a review of the case.

“While there are many more details that she is unable to share with me and the public to protect privacy of the minor and their family, I believe a review of this case within her court or during an appellate process is required,” Coulter said.

Grace is not due to appear in court to have her case reviewed until September 8.

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3 comments

Annie Mills July 18, 2020 at 1:59 pm

I’m not understanding the outrage. The girl was on probation, instead of already being in juvie, for physically assaulting her mother and stealing a phone from a fellow student’s backpack. She got a lucky break not being in juvie already. Some softie judge gave her probation with terms to be met. She clearly didn’t appreciate the break. She violated the terms of her probation by not completing her school work.Her mom is making excuses for her as being ADD. So what? If the mom wasn’t able to keep her straight and assist her with staying focused, maybe juvie will. The girl has no chance in this life without an education. Quit coddling her. She will be fired from jobs in the future if she doesn’t do the work she is hired to do and she’ll play the victim because no one is teaching her right from wrong now and how to be a responsible person. Let her be in juvie if it will help her get her school work done. She’s gotta grow up at some point and realize she has a responsibility to herself, her family and her community (taxpayers who pay for her “free” education).There is still hope for this girl if we quit making excuses for her bad behavior and lack of any sense of responsibility.

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cat July 29, 2020 at 2:28 pm

White people have no idea how bad it is for black people in this country! I’m white – I live in Seattle (which is not nearly as bad as the rest of the country) but WTF?! This is just dumb – We’re in a pandemic. Judge – be reasonable.

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Annie Mills July 29, 2020 at 2:44 pm

Enough with the white guilt. We don’t need your white guilt. The opportunities are there for us all and if you don’t think so, remember Dr. Ben Carson (world renown pediatric neurosurgeon – played by Cuba Gooding, Jr in the Gifted Hands movie) was raised by a single mom who was illiterate. What she did right in raising two highly successful son? She refused to let them play victim. Without an education the girl in this story has a snowball’s chance in hell of making something of her life. Let her have the consequences of her inactions. To say “we’re in a pandemic” as an excuse is just bizarre. The pandemic is affording her plenty of time to do her homework. Not less time to do it. She already has behavioral issues and if you keep letting her know that her actions have no consequences, she will continue on her current path. Or you can enforce the consequences and have better results next time she has a choice to make. She made her choice to not do the work. Stop coddling her. The world will not coddle her when it comes to the work force. Help her learn that now.

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