In the land of the free, failing to do your online homework during a pandemic can and will lead to your incarceration — even if you are a special needs 15-year-old girl. After a scathing report out of ProPublica this week, protests are being held demanding the child — known as Grace — be released from juvenile detention after being incarcerated for failing to do her homework.
For not completing her online homework during the coronavirus lockdown, Grace has been imprisoned since May. The young girl was reportedly on probation which was revoked by a judge for her “failure to submit to any schoolwork and getting up for school” during the coronavirus pandemic, ProPublica reported this week.
In mid-April, Grace was placed on probation and part of the requirements of that probation was doing her homework as schools went online. Her mother told ProPublica how big of a challenge this was as her daughter had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and had already been struggling with behavioral issues.
“Who can even be a good student right now?” Ricky Watson Jr., executive director of the National Juvenile Justice Network, told ProPublica. “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’s behavioral issues are what landed her in trouble with the law in the first place after she bit her mom’s finger over a dispute last November. She was also caught stealing and later returned another student’s cellphone.
She had arguably learned her lesson and has not been in trouble since then — until May, when she failed to finish her online homework. Instead of realizing the severity of the situation in the country right now due to the pandemic, the judge found no sympathy and took the child from her family and threw her in a jail for children.
Showing just how ridiculous the judge’s decision was to incarcerate this child is the fact that she called her a “threat” for not doing her homework.
Judge Mary Ellen Brennan, the presiding judge of the Oakland County Family Court Division, called Grace a “threat to [the] community” when she sentenced her to juvenile detention on May 14, according to ProPublica.
“She hasn’t fulfilled the expectation with regard to school performance,” Brennan said during the sentencing. “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.”
A 15-year-old girl with ADHD and behavioral problems is not a threat for failing to finish school work. That’s just absurd and even her own teacher agrees.
Grace’s teacher came to her defense during the sentencing telling the judge that Grace’s performance during the lockdown was “not out of alignment with most of my other students” who are trying to adjust to remote classes.
Other students came to her defense as well, who all signed a petition to demand Grace’s release.
“A lot of people were behind on their work this semester, no one had motivation to do anything because the teachers weren’t teaching and we were all online. I know so many people that didn’t do their homework,” 18-year-old student Prudence Canter told Reuters news agency.
“It just doesn’t make any sense,” Charisse, Grace’s mother told ProPublica, crying after one of her visits to see Grace.
“Every day I go to bed thinking, and wake up thinking, ‘How is this a better situation for her?’”
Sadly, being locked up in a jail for kids for failing to finish your homework is likely not better for anyone. Grace, who is black, is now part of the school to prison pipeline and this will affect her career path and options for the rest of her life.
Sheri Crawley, a mother of one of the children at Grace’s school told WDIV that “if Grace was a 15-year-old white girl she would not be sitting in juvenile detention right now.” All the statistics say that she is probably right.