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Michigan teenager with learning disability jailed for violating probation by falling behind on remote school work

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A Michigan teenager with attention deficit disorder was sent to juvenile detention in May for violating her probation by falling behind on her online school work, Reuters reported.

The teenager, referred to as Grace in media reports, is a 15-year-old student of Groves High School in Beverley Hills, Michigan.

Grace had been on probation since April, Newsweek reported, due to a fight with her mother in November and a larceny charge for stealing a student's cellphone at school. From Newsweek:

Judge Mary Ellen Brennan, the presiding judge of the Oakland County Family Court Division, set the conditions of probation, which required Grace to wear a GPS tether, check in regularly with her court caseworker and undergo counseling, ProPublica said. She wasn't allowed to have a cellphone, but she was allowed to use a school-issued laptop for her coursework, which she was required to complete.

In late April, Grace reportedly told her caseworker that she was feeling overwhelmed with the online learning situation she and her classmates had been thrust into due to COVID-19. The caseworker reported Grace for a probation violation when Grace fell asleep after speaking with her rather than completing school work.

Judge Brennan sent Grace to a juvenile detention center in Oakland County for the violation. The ruling sparked local protests, as other students said it's wrong to punish Grace so harshly given the unique circumstances.

Rep. Andy Levin (D-Mich.) issued a statement criticizing the decision to incarcerate Grace for struggling with her school responsibilities.

"From publicly available information, the case to detain this student has serious deficiencies," Levin's statement said. "The prosecution's only witness was unaware of the student's learning disabilities. Witnesses who could have provided a better understanding of the situation, like the student's teachers, were unable to testify. Moreover, the infraction that sent this student to juvenile detention was trivial. I am saddened to have to state the obvious: We should not be locking up children for not doing their homework."

Levin also suggested that there was a racial aspect to the situation. Grace is black.

"Unfortunately, this case is reflective of the harsh penalties children of color face throughout Michigan and the United States when dealing with the criminal justice system," Levin wrote.

Oakland County Executive David Coulter called for the case to be reviewed and possibly appealed.

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