Judge Says Teen Who Didn’t Finish Online Schoolwork Must Stay Locked Up Until September – Reason.com


Protesters ask courts to #FreeGrace. As the COVID-19 pandemic ravages jails and prisons, many people are fighting to keep low-level and nonviolent offenders out. Meanwhile, in Michigan, a 15-year-old girl has been jailed since May for not doing her homework—and a judge says that the Oakland County teenager will stay that way until at least sometime in September.

The family court judge, Mary Ellen Brennan, ruled on Monday that “Grace” must remain in a juvenile detention facility and denied the girl’s motion for early release.

“Grace, a pseudonym for the juvenile, was on probation on assault and theft charges related to a November assault on her mother,” notes The Detroit News. The assault Grace was found guilty of involved biting her mom’s finger and pulling her hair; the theft, swiping another student’s phone from the school locker room.

One condition of Grace’s probation was that she must complete her coursework from her high school’s online classes. When a judge found in May that Grace was behind on this remote coursework, the girl was ruled in violation of her probation and locked up.

Grace was “guilty on failure to submit to any schoolwork and getting up for school,” Brennan wrote.

“It just doesn’t make any sense,” Grace’s mom told ProPublica. “Every day I go to bed thinking, and wake up thinking, ‘How is this a better situation for her?'”

On Monday, Grace told Brennan: “I miss my mom. I can control myself. I can be obedient.”

Grace’s mom also wants her home.

But Brennan seems to think she knows more about what is best for this family than they do. “The right thing is for your and your mom to be separated for right now,” she told Grace in court. “Give yourself a chance to follow through and finish something.”

Brennan also said yesterday that Grace “was not detained because she didn’t turn her homework in. She was detained because she was a threat to her mother.” But Grace’s mom doesn’t seem to feel like her daughter is a threat to her at present, and the incidents that led to Grace’s arrest are not what provoked the judge to detain her; that came later, when the judge found Grace not following the court’s homework order.

“This situation is an emotional challenge,” said Grace’s mom in a statement, “but is also a window into the brokenness that demands and deserves attention and repair as to prevent other children and families from being negatively impacted by a system that is supposed to offer protection and support.”

“Because of the confidentiality of juvenile court cases, it’s impossible to determine how unusual Grace’s situation is,” points out ProPublica, which first reported on Grace’s story last week:

But attorneys and advocates in Michigan and elsewhere say they are unaware of any other case involving the detention of a child for failing to meet academic requirements after schools closed to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

The decision, they say, flies in the face of recommendations from the legal and education communities that have urged leniency and a prioritization of children’s health and safety amid the crisis. The case may also reflect, some experts and Grace’s mother believe, systemic racial bias. Grace is Black in a predominantly white community and in a county where a disproportionate percentage of Black youth are involved with the juvenile justice system.

Activists flanked the courthouse yesterday in protest of Grace’s treatment.

“She is 15 years old,” Cherisie Evans, a leader with the Michigan Liberation Action Fund, told The Detroit News. “Where is the counseling? Where are the resources?”

Brennan insisted in court that Children’s Village, the juvenile detention facility that Grace is in, is a “treatment program.”

Last week, the Michigan Supreme Court’s communications director said “the State Court Administrative Office is working with the Oakland Circuit Court to examine the processes in this case.”


FOLLOWUP

Portland protest updates. Demonstrations in downtown Portland continued last night, despite the aggressive response from outside agitators in the form of federal agents.

In response to recent events, Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D–N.Y.) and Eleanor Holmes Norton (D.C.’s non-voting congressional delegate, a Democrat) are introducing legislation to make federal law enforcement agents identify themselves.

“The bill would require on-duty federal agents to display not just the name of their agency but also the individual agent’s last name and identification number,” notes The Nation. “It would also mandate a new form of oversight for the Justice Department, requiring its inspector general to conduct routine audits to ensure compliance with the legislation. The results of these audits would then be reported to Congress.”

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump seems mighty pleased with the work his secret police force is doing:

For more Reason takes on the situation, check out yesterday’s Reason Roundtable podcast, read Billy Binion on Hawaii Democratic Sen. Brian’s Schatz’s hypocritical concerns that libertarians aren’t outraged, and check out C.J. Ciaramella on the Trump administration’s plans to take their Portland performance to Chicago.


QUICK HITS

• Kanye West is going through… something.

(More on the potential West candidacy here.)

• Whistleblower Reality Winner has contracted COVID-19 in prison.

• The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is suing on behalf of former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen:

The Forward profiles a group of black “public intellectuals [who] scramble the racial lines of today’s debate” and push back on “the racial essentialism they view as ascendant in our current moment—the idea that one must prioritize race over everything else to combat racism.”

• “It is now clear that it is not the case that President Trump doesn’t want to change his behavior. It’s that he is congenitally incapable to moderate it even for a single day,” suggests former Republican National Committee spokesperson Tim Miller at The Bulwark.

• Breonna Taylor, the woman fatally shot by Louisville cops in a no-knock raid on her home, “was not killed immediately,” lawyers for her family write in a revised lawsuit. “Rather, she lived for another five to six minutes before ultimately succumbing to her injuries on the floor of her home.”

• Ugh:

• “During its long period of decline, the Ottoman Empire was called ‘the sick man of Europe.’ The United States is now the sick man of the world,” suggests Jonathan Chait. And while “the distrust and open dismissal of expertise and authority may seem uniquely contemporary—a phenomenon of the Trump era, or the rise of online misinformation,” they’re really the “products of a decades-long war against the functioning of good government, a collapse of trust in experts and empiricism, and the spread of a kind of magical thinking that flourishes in a hothouse atmosphere that can seal out reality.”

• New game: Russian bot or British boomer?

• Protecting and serving:





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