Teen Incarcerated For Failing To Do Online Schoolwork Amid Pandemic

Teen Incarcerated For Failing To Do Online Schoolwork Amid Pandemic

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A 15-year-old Black student with special needs was incarcerated because she didn’t finish her schoolwork

On Tuesday, it was reported that a Black teenager in Michigan was sent to a juvenile detention center after a judge discovered she had apparently “violated” probation: 15-year-old “Grace” was incarcerated back in May because she didn’t finish her online schoolwork.

According to ProPublica, the outlet that first reported the case, Grace had been put on probation for stealing and fighting with her mom. The attorneys told the publication that they haven’t heard of a case like Grace’s, specifically that it’s highly unusual to incarcerate a child because they didn’t complete their coursework from home, due to all schools being closed. Additionally, not meeting scholastic requirements has nothing to do with Grace’s previous offenses. Ricky Watson Jr., the executive director of the National Juvenile Justice Network, stated, “Who can even be a good student right now? Unless there is an urgent need, I don’t understand why you would be sending a kid to any facility right now and taking them away from their families with all that we are dealing with right now.”

Several experts argue that Grace’s punishment doesn’t make sense, and exemplifies how systemic racial bias continues to disproportionally impact Black youth. ProPublica points out that Grace and her mother “Charisse” live in a mostly white community in which a large percentage of Black children and teens make up the juvenile justice system. Judge Mary Ellen Brennan, who is the presiding judge of the Oakland County Family Court Division, found Grace “guilty on failure to submit to any schoolwork and getting up for school.” She, according to the ruling, called the teen a “threat to the community.” Brennan said that Grace “hasn’t fulfilled the expectation with regard to school performance. I told her she was on thin ice and I told her that I was going hold her to the letter, to the order, of the probation.”

Grace, who was diagnosed with ADHD and a mood disorder, was shown to benefit more from in-person support from school staff. This made remote learning especially hard for her. Charisse told ProPublica that, without her Individualized Education Plan in place, she grew concerned that her daughter would become overwhelmed and not have the resources she had pre-COVID, which included teachers checking in on her to make sure Grace was understanding the material, as well as additional time to finish assignments. Charisse stated that when Grace was forced to transition to remote class, she wasn’t given the same support she had before, thus setting her up for failure.