Michigan teen jailed for not doing schoolwork to be released

Judge Mary Ellen Brennan had denied the release of the 15-year-old, noting that keeping her detained was for her own good. 

(Courtesy of Fotolia)

The 15-year-old Oakland County girl who was jailed as punishment for failing to complete her online schoolwork was released Friday evening to the custody of her mother.

Following monthlong protests over her imprisonment and public pressure, including from former presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton, the Michigan Court of Appeals ordered the girl’s release on July 31 from Children’s Village, a juvenile detention facility in Pontiac, Detroit News reports. 

The girl, who is Black and has ADHD, will stay with her mother “pending appeal or further order of this court,” the three-judge appellate panel ordered. 

Read More: Michigan judge denies release of teen girl jailed for skipping online homework

theGRIO previously reported, Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Mary Ellen Brennan had denied the release of the 15-year-old, who is being called “Grace” to protect her identity. Brennan told Grace that keeping her detained was for her own good. 

Grace was placed in the juvenile facility in May after failing to complete online homework from Groves High School in Beverly Hills. At the time, the school switched to remote learning amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Judge Brennan initially ruled the girl was “guilty on failure to submit to any schoolwork and getting up for school” and called her a “threat to (the) community” because she was on probation for theft and assaulting her mother. 

“Give yourself a chance to follow through and finish something,” Brennan told Grace during a July hearing. “The right thing is for you and your mom to be separated for right now.”

Advocates held signs outside of the court with the hashtag, #FreeGrace. 

Read More: Michigan pastor says white woman coughed on him for not wearing mask

Lawmakers fired off a letter on Thursday to Attorney General William Barr and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, calling on them to intervene in Grace’s case. According to Detroit News, the letter was signed by U.S. Rep. Andy Levin, D-Bloomfield Township, U.S. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, and U.S. Reps. Rashida Tlaib, D-Detroit, Brenda Lawrence, D-Southfield, Haley Stevens, D-Rochester Hills and Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass. 

“While Grace has faced many personal challenges in her young life, it was her lack of completion in online classes that the judge cited as the definitive reason for sentencing Grace to juvenile detention,” they wrote in the letter. “This is unacceptable.”

“They just want to go home. … She will get to sleep in her own bed tonight for the first time in weeks,” said the girl’s lawyer, Jonathan Biernat, on Friday after the ruling. 

Biernat said the girl was “obviously overwhelmed and thankful” to finally be going home to her family.

“We didn’t expect this to happen until Monday,” said attorney Saima Khalil. “The Court of Appeals did the right thing.”

Have you subscribed to theGrio’s podcast “Dear Culture”? Download our newest episodes now!