Michigan judge refuses to release 'violent' teen with ADHD from juvenile detention for not finishing homework
PONTIAC, MICHIGAN: A Michigan judge has denied the release of a 15-year-old girl in custody for not completing her homework and said the teen would benefit from the treatment she is receiving at her juvenile facility. Grace, identified only by her middle name, was a high school sophomore at Groves High School in the Birmingham Public School District when she was charged with assault and theft last year, according to the Detroit Free Press.
The teen had been accused of biting her mother's finger, pulling her hair and stealing another student's cell phone, and was initially placed on probation in mid-April. Completing her homework regularly was one of the requirements for this probation. However, Grace, who suffers from ADHD, and receives special education services, struggled after her school stopped in-person classes and moved everything online because of the coronavirus pandemic. Two weeks into her probation, her probation officer filed a violation against her, and during a subsequent hearing, Oakland County family court judge Mary Ellen Brennan ordered her to be held at the Children's Village juvenile facility.
At the time, Brennan, who is the presiding judge of the Oakland County Family Court Division and is running for re-election, said she felt it wasn't safe to send Grace home after the probation violation because of the "numerous incidents of domestic violence" that had been reported against her."
Brennan said Grace was a "threat to [the] community" based on her prior charges of theft and assault. "She was not detained because she didn’t turn her homework in," she had insisted. "She was detained because I found her to be violent and a threat of harm to her mother based on everything I knew."
While the probation officer had not mentioned it in filing the probation violation, Brennan had detailed Grace's relationship with her mother during what she termed the "crazy years." Citing police records and child welfare reports, mostly from 2017 and 2018, the judge described the teen yelling, pushing, punching and biting her mother, and also of the mother's inability to control her daughter.
Grace was placed in secure detention at Children’s Village, in suburban Detroit, for about three weeks, and then transferred to a residential treatment program within the facility, where she is currently staying.
The case has come to the attention of national media, with protesters demonstrating outside the courthouse, and members of Congress, state lawmakers and Birmingham Public Schools board members calling for Grace's release. A statement from the prosecutor responsible for putting her in detention supported her release as well, bqut Brennan has remained steadfast in her decision.
On Monday, July 20, Brennan denied a motion from the 15-year-old's new attorney, Jonathan Biernat, to review the case and send her home. "I think you are exactly where you are supposed to," she said. "You are blooming there, but there is more work to be done."
The judge spent around 45 minutes defending her previous ruling and once again recounted the troubling relationship Grace had shared with her mother before her detention. She denied Grace's attorneys' attempts to discuss her decision to detain the teen for a probation violation and did not allow supportive testimony from her special education teacher.
The decision to keep her at the facility also came while Michigan is operating under an order from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to eliminate any form of detention or residential placement unless the young person posed a "substantial and immediate safety risk to others."
The Michigan Supreme Court's oversight agency has opened a review of the procedures in the case