Other Issues Race

Teen Jailed for Skipping Online Class Released by Michigan Court of Appeals

Oakland County teenager, known as “Grace,” has been released from jail after public outcry surrounding her imprisonment. Grace was incarcerated for not completing her homework after courses moved online due to the pandemic.

The Michigan Court of Appeals voted to release the 15-year-old by overturning a previous ruling that cited missing homework as a probation violation. Grace was released into her mother’s custody.

The 15-year-old was originally arrested on assault and theft charges. But in May, Judge Mary Ellen Brennan of Oakland County Family Court sent her to Oakland County Children’s Village, a juvenile detention facility, after she did not complete high school class assignments. The missing homework occurred after Grace’s school, Groves High School in Beverly Hills, switched to remote learning.

On June 20, Judge Brennan refused to grant the teen early release. Grace is Black, and Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich) cited race as the reason for her excessive punishment – “if it was a white young person, I really question whether the judge would have done this… putting a young person in a confined area in the midst of COVID isn’t the answer.”

After Judge Brennan’s June decision, Grace’s lawyers appealed the ruling to the Michigan Court of Appeals. Her lawyers argued that Grace’s situation was not unique, and that many students across the country were having trouble adjusting to online learning due to the pandemic. ProPublica has also reported that the teenager was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, which could’ve further exacerbated challenges with the change.

The judges that made up the panel ordering Grace’s release included Judge Deborah Servitto, Judge Elizabeth Gleicher, and Judge Jonathan Tukel. Her attorney said of their decision, “we’re so happy that Grace is going to go home with her mom and sleep in her own bed tonight… she’ll be where she belongs, really.”

News of Grace’s incarceration sparked outrage from activists. Hashtags #FreeGrace and #JusticeforGrace went viral online, and six members of Congress wrote to Attorney General William Barr and Education Secretary Betsey Devos asking them to intervene in Grace’s favor.

Sources: Michigan Radio 08/03, Detroit News 08/03, The Hill 08/03