The Michigan judge who sent a 15-year-old Black girl to a juvenile detention facility for not completing her online homework released the teen from probation Tuesday following the ruling of an appeals court.
The Associated Press reports that Oakland Circuit Judge Mary Ellen Brennan “adopted a caseworker’s recommendation that the case be terminated and that the girl, called ‘Grace’ to protect her identity, continue receiving mental health treatment at home.” This came after the Michigan Court of Appeals ordered Grace to be released from Oakland County Children’s Village on July 3.
“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, AP reports.
In 2019, Grace was charged with assault for getting into a physical altercation with her mother, and charged with theft for stealing another student’s phone after hers was taken away. She was placed on probation in April and one of her requirements was to complete all of her schoolwork. In May, Brennan found Grace guilty of violating her probation by “failure to submit any schoolwork and getting up for school,” and sent her Children’s Village despite the fact that Grace’s teacher told her caseworker that Grace’s struggle to get up for school and get her work done is “not out of alignment with most of [her] other students.” Brennan also appears to ignore the fact that Grace has a learning disability (ADHD and a mood disorder) and the fact that she and her attorneys argued that the level of education she has been receiving at Children’s Villiage was inadequate. Brennan even went as far as to say she believes Grace is a “threat to (the) community.”
During a July 20 hearing, Brennan claimed that sending Grace to a juvenile detention center wasn’t about her not doing her homework, but about her history with her mother. (She is now characterizing Grace’s behavior as “delinquent” after calling her a “threat,” but I guess we’re not going to talk about all that dog-whistling.) But during her original violation hearing, Grace’s mother told Brennan that she and her daughter have not had an altercation during the probation period and that there has not been an incident since the original assault charge in November.
It’s almost as if a certain judge was bound and determined to criminalize a Black child whether it was actually in that child’s better interest or not.
“You have deprived my client access to mental health treatment that was available through her school and this court publicly lambasted the child during a court hearing,” Grace’s attorney Saima Khalil accusing Brennan of “callous conduct,” AP reports. Thankfully, the appeals court tied the judge’s hands and forced her to set Grace free.
“To say that we are pleased with the outcome is an understatement. While it was an unfortunate and painful process, it has resulted in Grace finally and permanently returning home to her family,” Graces mother said in a statement, according to WXYZ Detroit. “It has also provided insight into an otherwise obscure window into a system that requires change in order to effectively and positively impact those it is designed to serve. We will continue to work towards that change for our Grace, and the thousands of other children whose lives are touched by this system.
“In the short period of time that Grace has been home, we have become keenly aware of how damaging the juvenile system is as she recants loss of well-being, quality education, effective therapies and faith in a system that was supposed to protect and preserve the family,” she continued. “No child should walk away feeling less than because a system is degenerative and designed to break the spirit. Rather, than lift up and motivate a child to live up to their potential and vision their dreams fulfilled within arms reach.”
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