Mich. judge sends Black teen to juvenile detention for not finishing schoolwork

BEVERLY HILLS, Mich. (WDIV/CNN) - The “Free Grace” movement started after a Black teenager from Michigan was sent to juvenile detention for not finishing her schoolwork in what protesters are calling a case of racial discrimination.

Protesters are outraged over the case of a Wylie E. Groves High School student named Grace, saying it’s racial discrimination.  They gathered Thursday outside the school then marched to the Oakland County Courts complex.

“I know that if Grace was a 15-year-old white girl, she would not be sitting in juvenile detention right now,” protester Sheri Crawley said.

Grace was on probation in the juvenile justice system for fighting with her mother and stealing. When classes went online, the teen, who has ADHD and receives special education services, didn’t complete her schoolwork, the Detroit Free Press reports. She reportedly struggled with the transition to online learning.

Family Court presiding judge Mary Ellen Brennan declared the 15-year-old had violated her probation by not completing the work and sent her to juvenile detention.

State Rep. Kyra Bolden says all measures should be examined before incarceration, especially with COVID-19 surging across the country.

"Gov. [Gretchen] Whitmer issued an executive order that specifically talked about not incarcerating children during this global pandemic, and this situation does exactly the opposite of that," she said.

Oakland County Executive David Coulter called for Grace’s case to be reviewed, a request that a Family Division judge granted Friday, according to the Detroit Free Press. The hearing is scheduled for Monday morning.

“You’re a young girl with your whole life ahead of you, and I want to make sure that you have every opportunity to succeed. It’s my responsibility and the county’s opportunity to make sure that we’re giving you the appropriate support and resources so that you can be successful in your life. That’s all any of us want,” said Coulter in a message to the teen.

Officials with the Birmingham School District, of which Grove High School is a part, say they had no say in the judge’s order. They held a special meeting Thursday to review Grace’s case and figure out how to help her and others like her.

Copyright 2020 WDIV, Oakland County via CNN. All rights reserved. Gray News contributed to this report.