The 15-year-old girl, identified as Grace, has been in custody at a Detroit area juvenile detention center for roughly two months now after a judge ruled she violated her probation by not completing online coursework amid the coronavirus pandemic, reports said.
Grace has ADHD, a learning disorder that she said caused her to feel unmotivated and overwhelmed while online learning, according to the ProPublica report on Tuesday.
“Who can even be a good student right now?” said Ricky Watson Jr., executive director of the National Juvenile Justice Network. “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.”
Grace, the girl’s middle name, was previously placed on probation after an alleged fight with her mother and for thefts at school, thee report said. Police have been called to the family’s home in the past.
Judge Mary Ellen Brennan, the presiding judge of the Oakland County Family Court Division, ruled that Grace was “guilty on failure to submit to any schoolwork and getting up for school.” She also called Grace a “threat to (the) community,” the report said.
“She hasn’t fulfilled the expectation with regard to school performance,” Brennan said as she sentenced Grace. “I told her she was on thin ice and I told her that I was going to hold her to the letter, to the order, of the probation.”
Rachel Giroux, Grace’s caseworker, allegedly filled a violation of probation to have Grace detained before confirming if the teenager had been meeting her academic requirements, according to ProPublica. She then emailed Grace’s teacher, Katherine Tarpeh, who said she was “not out of alignment with most of my other students.”
“Let me be clear that this is no one’s fault because we did not see this unprecedented global pandemic coming,” Tarpeh wrote, adding that Grace “has a strong desire to do well.”
In March, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued an executive order temporarily suspending the confinement of juveniles who violate probation unless directed by a court order. The order also encouraged eliminating any form of detention unless they posed a “substantial and immediate safety risk to others.”
A hearing to review the case is scheduled for Sept. 8. Until then, the judge ordered Grace to remain at Children’s Village juvenile detention center.
“It just doesn’t make any sense,” said Grace’s mother, identified by ProPublica as Charisse. “Every day I go to bed thinking, and wake up thinking, ‘How is this a better situation for her?’”
A few days after Grace was handcuffed in the courtroom and sent to the juvenile detention center, Charisse said she received a letter from her daughter.
“I want to change. I want to be a better person,” the letter said, according to ProPublica. “Here I’ve realized how much you care and love me. I’m sorry I took that for granted. Please continue to send me pictures of me and you or just with anyone. I love you mommy and I miss you.”