A black teenager, 15, jailed for not doing her homework has been released from probation after an appeals court ordered a judge to let her go.
Judge Mary Ellen Brennan adopted a caseworker’s recommendation that the case against the teen – referred to as ‘Grace’ to protect her identity – be terminated and that she continue receiving mental health treatment at home.
This comes after the same judge sent Grace to the Children’s Village detention center in Detroit on May 14 saying her failure to complete school work had violated the terms of her parole.
The decision sparked outrage and led to protests outside Oakland County Circuit Court last month demanding the girl’s release.
Brennan released the teen from probation on Tuesday, under the orders of an appeals court.
The Michigan Court of Appeals had ordered Grace be immediately released from the facility to her mom on July 31 – a ruling that Brennan said effectively tied the lower court’s hands, The Detroit News reported.
She said Grace, who suffers from ADHD, appeared to be benefiting from the treatment she had received at the facility.
No details of that treatment have been provided.
‘This court’s goal to place her (in Children´s Village) was to address delinquent behavior and improve life at home for her and her mother,’ Brennan said.
The girl was first placed on probation last April after she was charged with stealing another student’s cellphone and assaulting her mom – known as ‘Charisse’ – during a row.
During sentencing, Grace tearfully begged Brennan not to send her to a juvenile detention facility.
‘My mom and I do get into a lot of arguments, but with each one I learn something and try to analyze why it happened,’ the teen sobbed.
‘My mom and I are working each day to better ourselves and our relationship, and I think that the removal from my home would be an intrusion on our progress.’
Brennan sentenced her to strict probation that included the completion of all schoolwork.
But when the schools shuttered due to the coronavirus pandemic, Grace’s caseworker Rachel Giroux raised concerns that the work was not being done.
In an email penned to Giroux, Grace’s teacher wrote: ‘Let me be clear that this is no one’s fault because we did not see this unprecedented global pandemic coming.
‘Grave has a strong desire to do well… [and] is trying to get to the other side of a steep learning curve mountain and we have a plan for her to get there’.
Brennan ruled that Grace was in violation of her probation in May and sent her to the detention facility for at least three months.
The judge initially cited a ‘failure to submit to any schoolwork and getting up for school’ for her decision to place the teen in juvenile detention.
The 15-year-old was escorted out of the courtroom in handcuffs and ankle shackles.
Charisse told ProPublica in a July interview that watching her daughter being taken away was particularly traumatic given that they are both black.
‘For us and our culture, that for me was the knife stuck in my stomach and turning,’ she said.
‘That is our history, being shackled. And she didn’t deserve that.’
Charisse shared a heartbreaking letter handwritten by Grace inside the detention center with the news site.
‘I want to change. I want to be a better person. 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,’ the letter reads.
As news of her imprisonment spread, protesters gathered outside the courthouse in mid-July demanding her release and calling for law enforcement re-examine how black children are treated in the criminal justice system.
The judge defended her decision during a hearing on July 20, claiming Grace was placed in the juvenile facility because she was a threat to her mother and that police had been called out three times for confrontations between the pair.
Brennan said the girl was a threat to the community based on an assault allegation involving her mother in November, according to court documents.
She also cited the allegations Grace stole a cellphone from a fellow student at Birmingham Groves High School in Beverly Hills, northwest of Detroit.