MI Teen In Custody For Violating Probation By Not Doing Online Schoolwork

Screengrab / Emma Matters / Twitter

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However, Grace is diagnosed with a learning disability, and her teacher says most students are similarly struggling.

The Hill reports that a Michigan judge revoked a teenager’s probation and ordered her sent to a juvenile detention facility after the youth failed to complete her online schoolwork.

  • ProPublica reported the story on July 14, identifying the teenager as a black 15-year-old named Grace.
  • As of July 14, Grace has been in custody for over a month for “failure to submit to any schoolwork and getting up for school.”
  • Grace was placed on probation for fighting with her mother and stealing from another student at school. Judge Mary Ellen Brennan, who is white, made completing her online schoolwork a condition of the probation.
  • However, ProPublica reports that “attorneys and advocates in Michigan and elsewhere say they are unaware of any other case involving the detention of a child for failing to meet academic requirements after schools closed to help stop the spread of COVID-19.”
  • Furthermore, due to public health concerns related to COVID-19, Governor Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI) issued an executive order encouraging courts to eliminate detention or residential placement unless a youth presents a “substantial and immediate safety risk to others.”
  • Based on the ProPublica report, Grace’s only violation of the probation involved incomplete schoolwork, missing some classes, and possibly using the Internet after dark.

The probation issues allegedly began after Charisse, Grace’s mother, told casework Rachel Giroux that Grace was having some difficulties adjusting to the school’s online instruction adopted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Grace also told Giroux she was “overwhelmed.”

  • Giroux initially told Charisse to give Grace time to adjust to the new mode of learning and not to expect her to be “perfect.”
  • However, after hearing about Grace sleeping in again five days later, Giroux apparently changed tack. She filed a violation of probation against Grace and reportedly told a prosecutor that she planned to ask the judge to detain Grace because she “clearly doesn’t want to abide by the rules in the community.”
  • However, Grace’s teacher, Katherine Tarpeh, appeared to disagree with this characterization. In an email to Giroux, Tarpeh wrote that Grace was “not out of alignment with most of my other students” and she “has a strong desire to do well.”
  • Charisse also reports that before the transition to online learning, Grace had perfect attendance at school.
  • Additionally, Grace is diagnosed with a learning disability, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. As the school was still in the midst of transitioning to online learning, most of the academic support usually provided to assist special needs students such as Grace was not yet in place at the beginning of her probation.
  • When Grace’s sentencing hearing took place on May 14, hers was the only case heard in-person. The Family Division of the Oakland County courthouse was only hearing “essential emergency matters.”
  • Brennan commented during sentencing that “She hasn’t fulfilled the expectation with regard to school performance,” and “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.”
  • According to court records provided by Grace’s family, she was “found guilty on failure to submit to any schoolwork and getting up for school” and was “Ordered to Children’s Village-Secure as juvenile is a threat to community as original charge was assault and theft.”

Charisse, Grace’s mother, told ProPublica, “It just doesn’t make any sense.”

Every day I go to bed thinking, and wake up thinking, “How is this a better situation for her?”

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