Despite Outcry, Judge Keeps Black Teen Girl In Detention For Not Doing Homework

Judge Mary Ellen Brennan denied Grace’s release despite protesters accusing the system of racial discrimination.

An African American Michigan teenager who was placed in a juvenile detention center for simply not doing her homework will remain there, a judge has decided.

In a case that gained national attention after an investigative report by the nonprofit news organization ProPublica, the girl -- identified only as “Grace” -- had been charged with assault in November for an attack on her mother and larceny after she was accused of stealing another teen’s cell phone. 

But after months without incident, her caseworker had recommended punishment from the courts after failure to keep up with her school coursework, which she had been taking online due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Judge Mary Ellen Brennan, presiding judge of the Oakland County (Mich.) Family Court Division found the 15-year-old girl, who has ADHD, “guilty on failure to submit to any schoolwork and getting up for school” and said she was a “threat to (the) community.” 

Now, local station WDIV reports Brennan denied Grace’s release on Friday despite protesters accusing the system of racial discrimination. On Monday, she denied her early release once more and scheduled a hearing for September. The girl remains housed at Children’s Village in Pontiac, about an hour north of Detroit.

RELATED: Supporters Emerge To Help Free Michigan Black Teen Incarcerated For Not Completing Online Schoolwork

In an interview with last week, Jason Smith, Director of Youth Justice Policy for the Michigan Center for Youth Justice said that too many cases like these in the Michigan juvenile justice system result in racial disparities.

“It seems like a lot of white youth are being diverted away from detention or residential placement and placed in alternatives to confinement, but for Black youth like Grace that hasn’t been the case,” said Smith.

Grace’s hearing on Monday came as a result of encouragement from local politicians. But Brennan did not change her view on Grace’s case. "Give yourself a chance to follow through and finish something," Brennan said during the hearing, according to The Detroit News. "The right thing is for your and your mom to be separated for right now."

But in her own defense she said simply: "I miss my mom. I can control myself. I can be obedient."

Grace’s mother, identified in the ProPublica story only as “Charisse,” was thankful for all the advocacy and support she has received from the public nationwide. 

“While we attempt to untangle the web that now confines my daughter and keeps her away from me, her family and the support that she needs, I want to thank the seemingly endless number of people -- including numerous elected officials -- who have expressed their concern and offered their support at the rallies. 

RELATED: Michigan Judge Faces Outrage After Putting Teen In Juvenile Detention For Not Doing Homework

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