Court orders release of Black Michigan teen who was jailed for missing schoolwork
The Michigan Court of Appeals ordered the release of a Black 15-year-old who was detained for failing to complete schoolwork during the pandemic, a case that had drawn nationwide attention and scrutiny.
Detroit News reports that the court overturned a previous ruling that said the teen violated her probation by missing homework. The court blasted the previous ruling, calling it “callous” and ordered the teen, known only as Grace, to be immediately released to her mother’s custody.
A report by ProPublica earlier this month first shed light on Grace’s case, as it noted that she was on probation for fighting with her mother and stealing, but there were reportedly no other examples of students taken into custody for failing to complete schoolwork.
The Black teen’s teacher and many others said it has not been uncommon for students to miss work while remote learning during coronavirus-related school closures, and ProPublica reported that she is diagnosed with a learning disability — attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.
“We’re so happy that Grace is going to go home with her mom and sleep in her own bed tonight,” Grace’s attorney Jonathan Biernat said according to Detroit News. “She’ll be where she belongs, really.”
Judge Mary Ellen Brennan of the Oakland Circuit Court had ruled last week that she must stay in detention, drawing the ire of Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) who suggested race factored into the punishment.
“If it was a white young person, I really question whether the judge would have done this,” Dingell said at the time. “Putting a young person in a confined area in the midst of COVID isn’t the answer.”
Grace’s case had prompted viral online calls for justice and her release from probation, with the hashtags #freeGrace and #JusticeforGrace drawing support from prominent activists.