Why Was 15-year-old Grace Sent to Juvenile Detention For Not Doing Schoolwork?

Grace's casemaker allegedly filed violation without taking updates from her special education teacher

Have you ever heard of a case where a teenager is detained for not completing the schoolwork? Well, a 15-year-old Michigan girl is serving her sentence at the Children's Village Juvenile Detention Center in Detroit area, since May 14.

The teenager, who has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), was accused by Judge Mary Ellen Brennan in April this year, after her caseworker Rachel Giroux submitted her response to the Oakland County Court. Grace was a student of Groves High School in Beverly Hills.

While her special education teacher Katherine Tarpeh had observed that "Grace has a strong desire to do well," Giroux went ahead and approached the court in April, after Grace failed to cope with schedule jotted down by her mother Charisse.

The 15-year-old Grace at the Juvenile Detention Center of Detroit

Grace has remained in juvenile custody for over two months now, and the next hearing is on Sep. 8. She deals with ADHD, a disorder under which an individual finds it hard to maintain concentration, and maintaining motivation in performing a task seems to be tough. Grace, however, had bouts of anxiety and mood swings, owing to which she usually abandoned her tasks, though she had the intention to perform them, specifically her classes, according to her mother Charisse.

Grace needed special attention, meaning one-on-one discussion to understand any subject matter. As the lockdown was announced in schools across Michigan, the Groves High School also opted for remote learning, forcing many students to stick to schoolwork allotted to them online.

Grace tried her best to cope with the schedule her mother had made out but she frequently went off chart, and was found guilty of her actions. Moreover, there are factors that added to her ADHD, which requires counselling, personalized treatment, motivation, which she could not find.

One such factor happens to be the incident on Nov. 6, 2019. Grace is said to have allegedly bitten her mother's finger when Charisse did not allow her access to the mobile phone. Narrating one such ADHD episode that her daughter went through before the lockdown, Charisse told ProPublica, "Grace had bit my hand, and pulled my hair inside a car after I did not give her the mobile phone."

A neighbour who heard Charisse yell "Help me!", informed the police. This was one such moment for Grace when she was helpless, given her mental state. The cops arrived and took Charisse and her daughter to be dropped at their friend's place. Meanwhile, the police referred Grace's matter in the Oakland court which took up the case in April and warned Grace against such acts, albeit, after she was charged with assault.

She was released after the warning but later in the same month, Grace was caught stealing a mobile phone from a school locker. Her act was recorded in the CCTV and she was confronted by the cops again. In her statement, she expressed her disappointment over not having a phone and said, "After I stole the phone, I was guilty and wanted to take back whatever I did. I wanted a cell phone as my mother had taken away mine," she had confessed.

On April 21, the Oakland court conducted a hearing via Zoom, where suggestions were in favor of anger management treatment for Grace. She was repeatedly denied speaking during the visual hearing, even as she went on crying. Instead, it was taken as Grace's disapproval of the schedule that was set by her mother.

In a compromise considering Grace's situation, the judge sent her to intensive detention where a GPS tether was tagged to her, while caseworker Giroux met her regularly, and she was not allowed to use mobile phone. She was only given permission to use the laptop for her schoolwork. Grace required an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) for her to stick to a place and focus but she could not follow a strict regimen and returned to irregularities, owing to ADHD.

Letter written by Grace to her mother from the Children's Village Juvenile Detention Center Twitter

Her casemaker Giroux also maintained notes, under which Grace was performing well until before the lockdown forced classes to run online. On April 26, Giroux she reportedly apprised Grace's prosecutor who, in turn, said, "I will inform the judge to detain Grace as she has not been following any schedules and that she does not do her online schoolwork."

The same day Giroux filed violation against Grace for not abiding by rules of probation. The casemaker allegedly did not consider writing to Grace's teacher Tarpeh, who informed Giroux three days after the violation was filed, that "Grace was in alignment with other students in studies. She is trying to get to the other side of a steep learning curve mountain and we have a plan for her to get there."

However, it was too late by then and the court on May 14 decided continuation of Grace's detention. The Oakland court is said to have gone beyond Governor Gretchen Whitmer's executive order that demands "release of all students in detention and they be sent back to their homes".

On Juneteenth, as always, Grace was allowed to be in video call with her mother. Days after Grace was denied pardon by judge Brennan, she wrote a letter to her mother seeking apology for everything she had done. She wrote, "I am sorry it took so long. I want to be a better person. I pray every night for God to bring me strength and to you as well....."

Grace currently awaits freedom from the detention center, while a case coordinator from the Children's Village said that she is doing very well right now and respectful, following the rules. Meanwhile, the case has gone viral on Twitter over the detention of Grace who still suffers from ADHD, and needs to be under immediate observation of her mother. Here are some tweets: