US judge refuses to release schoolgirl who was jailed over missing homework and fighting with her mother

Wednesday, 22nd July 2020, 12:25 pm
Updated Wednesday, 22nd July 2020, 2:54 pm
A black schoolgirl has been incarcerated since May for fighting with her mother and failing to complete homework as a part of a probation measure (Shutterstock)

A judge in the US state of Michigan has ruled that a schoolgirl detained for not keeping up with schoolwork during the coronavirus pandemic and for fighting with her mother cannot yet be released. 

Identified by her middle name, Grace, the black 15 year old has been held in juvenile detention since May.

The case has caused outrage in the United States, with accusations of racism levelled at those involved.

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Grace told a court on Monday, “I miss my mom” and, “I can control myself. I can be obedient."

What has the judge said?

Judge Mary Ellen Brennan said she believed Grace would benefit from a residential treatment programme, rejecting the child’s pleas to return to her mother. According to Michigan radio, the judge said she felt she would be doing Grace “a disservice” if she released her immediately. 

Judge Brennan said: "There is not a question in my mind, if I were to grant the request to release you home today, I would be making a mistake, and I would be doing you a disservice."

Judge Brennan added that Grace’s detention had been in response to the police being called on several occasions due to confrontations between the girl and her mother. 

"She was not detained because she didn't turn her homework in... She was detained because she was a threat to her mother," the judge said.

Reacting to public outcry, Judge Brennan said she "would not be swayed by public clamour or fear of criticism.”

At the hearing, Grace said that the programme she was participating in was not challenging her and causing her to fall behind on regular schoolwork. Grace’s case will be reviewed at a hearing in September.

Why was Grace detained?

US news website ProPublica highlighted the story in May.

Grace was placed on probation in April, following an assault and theft charge. One of the terms of her probation was to complete schoolwork. The start of her probation coincided with a switch to remote schoolwork and Grace, who lives with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD), struggled to adapt to the change.

At a hearing in mid-May Judge Brennan said that Grace was a threat to her community and that she was "guilty on failure to submit to any schoolwork and getting up for school.”