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10 Ways to Say Grace
Saying blessings before meals is a way to enhance mindfulness while eating. It also encourages us to reflect on the effort that goes into not just cooking the meal but growing and harvesting the ingredients. Here are 10 graces to say before meals, drawing on cultures from around the world.
This one is about valuing those around us, and the meal we’re about to eat. It has no religious overtones; it’s direct and to the point. “For this meal and those who made it, / And for those with whom we share it, / We are thankful.”
Adapted Native American Thanksgiving
This might be a good one to say before meals for thanksgiving dinner. “We give thanks for the living beings, the animals and plants, that gave themselves for this meal. And we give thanks for those who eat it with us.”
There are many Christian prayers to say before meals. Here’s a short one: “Blessed is the Earth for providing this food, / Blessed is the Sun for nurturing its growth, / Blessed is the Wind for carrying the seeds, / And blessed is the Rain for watering them.”
A secular prayer can follow much the same template, just without the religious feel. Dropping the religious feel can make for a more inclusive grace, allowing each person to assign their own personal meaning to the prayer. Here’s one: “Sun above and Earth below, / Our loving thanks to you we show.”
Thich Nhat Hanh Blessing
Vietnamese Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh is considered a master in the Zen tradition. Here is one of his simple pre-dinner blessings: “In this plate of food I see the entire universe supporting my existence.”
This Sanskrit blessing recognizes the Hindu trinity, or Trimurti, of Brahma (creative energy), Vishnu (preservative energy) and Shiva (destructive energy). “The food is Brahma, its essence is Vishnu, and the eater is Shiva.”
Buddhism emphasizes compassion for all living things, and this verse, or gatha, is an expression of that. “For this food we extend gratitude to all beings who brought it to our table. And we vow to pass on our own gift to those in need.”
Mother Nature Prayer
Here’s one for the hippies. “Beloved Mother Nature, benefactress of all, you are here on our table as food. Give us the strength and wisdom to help us share it with all of our brothers and sisters.”
Saying grace doesn’t have to be a serious affair. Sometimes it can just be for a laugh, like this one: “Blessings on the blossom, / Blessings on the fruit. / Blessings on the beans as well / For helping us to toot.”
Some proverbs are so powerfully simple yet so full of wisdom that they endure the test of time. Often, nobody really knows where they come from. Here’s a good example: “Enough is a feast.” In other words, sufficient food is plenty.
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'Grace,' the Oakland Co. teen detained for skipping homework is released
A Michigan teenager who has been detained since mid-May after not doing her online schoolwork was set free on Friday, after the Michigan Court of Appeals ordered her immediate release from a juvenile facility in Pontiac.
Grace, a high school sophomore, spent 78 days at the Children’s Village after an Oakland County family court judge found she had violated her probation on earlier charges of assault and theft. Friday’s decision comes a week after that judge denied her lawyer’s request to set her free. The lawyer then asked the appellate court to release her.
Within two hours of the court order, shortly after 5 p.m., Grace left the facility after her mother arrived to get her. She “had her bags ready to go, they jumped in the car and they were gone,” said one of Grace’s attorneys, Saima Khalil. “They were definitely emotional and happy.”
The case involving Grace, who is Black, was detailed in a ProPublica Illinois investigation this month and has drawn national scrutiny over concerns about the juvenile justice system, systemic racism and holding a teenager accountable for schoolwork during the pandemic.
More: Prosecutor reverses course, supports release of girl detained for skipping homework
The three-judge appellate court panel ordered that Grace be “immediately released from detention to the custody of her mother.” She will remain free pending the appeal of Judge Mary Ellen Brennan’s decision in May that found Grace “guilty on failure to submit to any schoolwork and getting up for school.” Brennan called Grace a “threat to (the) community,” citing the assault and theft charges that led to her probation this spring.
Michigan lawmakers and school board members have called for the girl’s release, more than 300,000 people signed an online petition and federal lawmakers asked the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Justice Department to intervene. There were several protests outside the courthouse where the case was heard.
“We are elated. We are so happy for Grace to be going home. It is amazing that she is going to be able to sleep at home tonight,” said Grace’s other attorney, Jonathan Biernat.
A statement released on behalf of Grace and her mother said, “They are both extremely and deeply appreciative of the outpouring of support from around the country, and for Grace’s release; she is anxious to be with her family.”
Grace will remain on probation while her appeal is pending or on “further order” from the Court of Appeals. She will be on home confinement with a GPS tether and will have individual and family counseling. She cannot have access to a phone unless her probation officer allows it and must obey all laws and follow her mother’s rules. She also must attend school and do schoolwork as directed, though school is not currently in session.
More: 'Grace is symbolic': Dozens protest detention of girl, 15, in Oakland County
The order from the Court of Appeals states that Grace’s attorney has 35 days to submit a brief in support of her appeal on the judge’s decision to revoke her probation and detain her. The prosecutor will then have 21 days to respond, though prosecutors have said they supported Grace’s release.
“The Court of Appeals did the right thing, and they did it as expeditiously as possible. They were very gracious. They didn’t even want it to hit the weekend,” Khalil said. “I am so grateful to them for looking at everything as quickly as they possibly could.”
Grace was a sophomore at Groves High School in Beverly Hills when she was charged with assault and theft for separate incidents last year in which she bit her mother’s finger and pulled her hair and then, weeks later, stole another student’s cellphone.
Brennan placed Grace on probation for those charges on April 21, and, among other requirements, required her to complete her schoolwork. Her probation officer filed a violation against her on May 5. She was found guilty on May 14 and placed in secure detention at Children’s Village for about three weeks before being transferred to a residential treatment program within the facility.
The decision to detain Grace came while the state was operating under an order from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to eliminate any form of detention or residential placement unless a young person posed a “substantial and immediate safety risk to others.”
In a hearing last week denying Grace’s attorneys’ request to release her, Brennan cited a long history of conflict between the teen and her mother detailed in police and child welfare records, most of them from 2017 and 2018. The records describe Grace yelling, pushing, punching and biting her mother, and her mother’s inability to control her, including a request in 2018 for Grace to enter a court diversion program for her “incorrigibility,” the judge said. She also mentioned Grace’s mental health treatment and troubles at school, including her theft of school technology, as well as social services support to help resolve conflicts between the mother and daughter.
Brennan said Grace was doing well and would be best served by getting more mental health treatment at Children’s Village. The program could have taken three more months to complete; Brennan had set Grace’s next hearing for Sept. 8.
Brennan, the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office and the Oakland County Circuit Court did not respond to requests for comment Friday. On Wednesday, the prosecutor’s office told the Court of Appeals that it supported the release of Grace from detention.
Brennan’s husband, attorney Edward Lennon, said his wife “is going to respect the Court of Appeals order. She is just going to do her job like she has been doing.”
U.S. Rep. Andy Levin, D-Mich., who represents the Oakland County district where Grace lives, said after the Court of Appeals decision was announced that “there is absolutely no doubt that public pressure turned the tide for Grace and her mother.”
“Throughout this pandemic, the injustices underlying so many of our systems have risen to the surface, and the people’s voice has risen just as swiftly to proclaim they must end,” he wrote.
Activists and others, including Grace’s mother, say her case highlights systemic racial disparities in the juvenile justice system. From January 2016 through June 2020, about 4,800 juvenile cases were referred to the Oakland County court. Of those, 42% involved Black youths even though only about 15% of the county’s youths are Black, according to a ProPublica Illinois analysis. Research also has shown a disproportionate number of youths of color are incarcerated in Michigan.
“I thank the Michigan Court of Appeals for taking action, every journalist who brought attention to this matter, every protester who camped outside of Children’s Village and every one of my colleagues who joined me to demand ‘Free Grace!’ in the weeks past,” Levin said. “We must continue dismantling the systems that allow young, Black girls like Grace to be incarcerated at a disproportionate rate.”
Michigan congresswoman Rashida Tlaib wrote on Twitter: “Coming together to demand justice in both the halls of Congress and the streets of Michigan really can make a difference. We did it for Grace — and we’ll do it again.”
Rep. Debbie Dingell tweeted “Great news!” when it was announced that Grace would be going home.
“But we can’t forget Grace is just one case in our broken criminal justice system,” Dingell wrote. “Let this case shine a light and raise awareness of the work we still need to do.”
ProPublica is using the teenager’s middle name to protect her identity.
This story was co-published with ProPublica, a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power.
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Classmates Rally To "Free Grace," The Teen Jailed For Not Completing Homework
July 22, 2020 / 10:40 PM / CW50 Detroit
(CBS DETROIT) - As 15-year-old Grace sits in an Oakland County Juvenile Detention Center for violating her probation.
Fellow classmates from Groves High School, staged a sit-in and protest in front of the Oakland County courthouse, demanding her release.
"If she is 15 years old, It's no reason you should be treating a child or teenager like she's a criminal," said Ama Russell.
Russell is referring to her classmate "Grace."
The teen has been locked up in Children's Village since May. Oakland County Judge Mary Ellen Breenan ordered her detained, saying Grace was a threat to the community based on prior assault and theft charges. Grace was on probation for those charges when the judge says she violated probation by not completing her online schoolwork during the pandemic.
"I didn't do my homework either I'm not incarcerated, this could have easily been me," said Sam Foss.
Protesters say that this is a case of racial injustice and had Grace been white, she would never be in this situation.
"We do not treat black girls with care and compassion, and that is a problem," said Russell.
After a review of Grace's case on Monday, Judge Breenan ruled to have Grace remain at Children's Village, where she's currently in stage two of a five stage program. The program can take months to complete. This group says they will continue to fight, until grace is home.
© 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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A Teenager Didn’t Do Her Online Schoolwork. So a Judge Sent Her to Juvenile Detention.
A 15-year-old in Michigan was incarcerated during the coronavirus pandemic after a judge ruled that not completing her schoolwork violated her probation. “It just doesn’t make any sense,” said the girl’s mother.
by Jodi S. Cohen
ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power. Sign up to receive our biggest stories as soon as they’re published.
This story was co-published with the Detroit Free Press and Bridge Magazine.
PONTIAC, Mich. — One afternoon in mid-June, Charisse* drove up to the checkpoint at the Children’s Village juvenile detention center in suburban Detroit, desperate to be near her daughter. It had been a month since she had last seen her, when a judge found the girl had violated probation and sent her to the facility during the pandemic.
The girl, Grace, hadn’t broken the law again. The 15-year-old wasn’t in trouble for fighting with her mother or stealing, the issues that had gotten her placed on probation in the first place.
She was incarcerated in May for violating her probation by not completing her online coursework when her school in Beverly Hills switched to remote learning.
Because of the confidentiality of juvenile court cases, it’s impossible to determine how unusual Grace’s situation is. But attorneys and advocates in Michigan and elsewhere say they are unaware of any other case involving the detention of a child for failing to meet academic requirements after schools closed to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
The decision, they say, flies in the face of recommendations from the legal and education communities that have urged leniency and a prioritization of children’s health and safety amid the crisis. The case may also reflect, some experts and Grace’s mother believe, systemic racial bias. Grace is Black in a predominantly white community and in a county where a disproportionate percentage of Black youth are involved with the juvenile justice system.
Across the country, teachers, parents and students have struggled with the upheaval caused by monthslong school closures. School districts have documented tens of thousands of students who failed to log in or complete their schoolwork: 15,000 high school students in Los Angeles , one-third of the students in Minneapolis Public Schools and about a quarter of Chicago Public Schools students .
Students with special needs are especially vulnerable without the face-to-face guidance from teachers, social workers and others. Grace, who has ADHD, said she felt unmotivated and overwhelmed when online learning began April 15, about a month after schools closed. Without much live instruction or structure, she got easily distracted and had difficulty keeping herself on track, she said.
“Who can even be a good student right now?” said Ricky Watson Jr., executive director of the National Juvenile Justice Network. “Unless there is an urgent need, I don’t understand why you would be sending a kid to any facility right now and taking them away from their families with all that we are dealing with right now.”
In many places, juvenile courts have attempted to keep children out of detention except in the most serious cases, and they have worked to release those who were already there, experts say. A survey of juvenile justice agencies in 30 states found that the number of youths in secure detention fell by 24% in March, largely due to a steep decline in placements.
In Michigan, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued an executive order in March that temporarily suspended the confinement of juveniles who violate probation unless directed by a court order and encouraged eliminating any form of detention or residential placement unless a young person posed a “substantial and immediate safety risk to others.” Acting on Whitmer’s order, which was extended until late May, the Michigan Supreme Court told juvenile court judges to determine which juveniles could be returned home.
Judge Mary Ellen Brennan, the presiding judge of the Oakland County Family Court Division, declined through a court administrator to comment on Grace’s case. In her ruling, she found Grace “guilty on failure to submit to any schoolwork and getting up for school” and called Grace a “threat to (the) community,” citing the assault and theft charges that led to her probation.
“She hasn’t fulfilled the expectation with regard to school performance,” Brennan said as she sentenced Grace. “I told her she was on thin ice and I told her that I was going to hold her to the letter, to the order, of the probation.”
That June afternoon, a month after the sentencing, Charisse left Children’s Village without seeing Grace, but she did pick up a shopping bag of clothes and toiletries she had delivered days earlier. She said officials had rejected them because they violated facility rules: underwear that wasn’t briefs; face wipes that contained alcohol; a pair of jeans deemed too tight.
Charisse counts each day they’re apart, and that was day No. 33. Another month has since passed, and there could still be months to go before they are at home together again.
Driving home, Charisse had to pull over soon after she turned onto the road leading away from the complex. She sat in a parking lot, sobbing.
“It just doesn’t make any sense,” she said. She shook her head as tears dampened the disposable blue face mask pulled down to her chin.
“Every day I go to bed thinking, and wake up thinking, ‘How is this a better situation for her?’”
It has always been just the two of them, Charisse and Grace.
Told by doctors that she would be unable to have children, Charisse, a consultant to nonprofit organizations, was shocked when she became pregnant at 44. She has raised Grace on her own after the girl’s father did not want to be involved, she said.
They did everything together: winter sports throughout Michigan, rounds of golf, going to the opera, singing to Tony Bennett on road trips. They even appeared in a “Pure Michigan” tourism ad. As a child, Grace wanted so much to be like her mother that she asked to be called Charisse No. 2.
When Grace hit her preteen years, however, their relationship became rocky. They argued about Grace keeping her room clean and doing schoolwork and regularly battled over her use of the phone, social media and other technology.
By the time Grace turned 13, the arguments had escalated to the point that Charisse turned to the police for help several times when Grace yelled at or pushed her. She said she didn’t know about other social services to call instead. In one incident, they argued over Grace taking her mother’s iPhone charger; when police arrived, they discovered she had taken an iPad from her middle school without permission. At her mother’s request, Grace entered a court diversion program in 2018 for “incorrigibility” and agreed to participate in counseling and not use electronic devices. She was released from the program early, her mother said.
While there was periodic family conflict, Grace has always had strong friendships and is active in her school and community, her mother said. She has helped run programs at church, played saxophone in the school band and composed music, and regularly participated in service projects.
The incident that led to her current situation happened Nov. 6, when someone called the police after hearing Charisse crying “Help me!” and honking her car’s horn. Grace, upset she couldn’t go to a friend’s house, had reached inside the car to try to get her mother’s phone and had bitten her mother’s finger and pulled her hair, according to the police report.
Police released Grace to a family friend to let the two cool down and referred the case to Oakland County court, where an assault charge was filed against her.
Weeks later, she picked up another charge, for larceny, after she was caught on surveillance video stealing another student’s cellphone from a school locker room.
“After I was caught, I felt instant remorse and guilt. I wanted to take back everything I had done,” Grace wrote in a statement to police. She said she had questioned herself even as she took the phone but wanted one after her mother took hers away.
The other student’s mother, who declined to comment for this story, told police she wanted to press charges, although the phone had been returned to her son soon after Grace took it. “My sincere hope is that any punitive action taken in this case be grounded in the goal of providing this student with opportunities for growth, change and future success,” she wrote in a statement to police.
In the months following the two incidents, Grace and her mother participated in individual and family therapy and Grace stayed out of trouble.
Charisse told a court caseworker assigned to the case that other than being irritable and getting “cabin fever” from being shut at home during the pandemic, “nothing significant” had taken place between the mother and daughter. There was no police contact after the November incidents, records show.
The April 21 juvenile court hearing on the larceny and assault charges against Grace was conducted via Zoom since the courts had shut down, with everyone calling in from their homes. Grace connected from her bedroom, her mother from their living room.
It had the familiar awkwardness of many online meetings: dropped audio; a dog barking in the background; participants swivelling in their chairs; the prosecutor losing his connection. (This hearing and others in the case were recorded, and a ProPublica reporter watched them at the Oakland County courthouse last month.)
Ashley Bishop, a youth and family caseworker for the court, told the judge she thought Grace would be best served by getting mental health and anger management treatment in a residential facility. The prosecutor, Justin Chmielewski, said he agreed. Grace’s court-appointed attorney, Elliot Parnes, said little but asked that she be given probation because she had committed no new offenses and because of the risk of COVID-19 in congregate facilities.
Parnes and Bishop declined to comment for this story and Chmielewski did not respond to calls.
Throughout the hearing, Grace took her glasses off to brush away tears and wiped her nose with her sleeve. She shook her head, which the judge later criticized as a sign of disagreement but which Grace told ProPublica signaled her disappointment in her past behavior. She raised her hand a couple times and asked, in a small voice, “Can I just say something please?”
“My mom and I do get into a lot of arguments, but with each one I learn something and try to analyze why it happened,” she said. “My mom and I are working each day to better ourselves and our relationship, and I think that the removal from my home would be an intrusion on our progress.”
Brennan admonished Grace for the fights with her mother, her thefts at school and behaving in a way that required police to come to their home. “Police,” she said. “Most people go through their entire youth without having the cops have to come to their house because they can’t get themselves together.”
But, citing the pandemic, Brennan decided not to remove Grace from her home and instead sentenced her to “intensive probation.” The terms of the probation included a GPS tether, regular check-ins with a court caseworker, counseling, no phone and the use of the school laptop for educational purposes only. Grace also was required to do her schoolwork.
“I hope that she upholds her end of the bargain,” Brennan said at the end of the hearing.
Schools across the country weren’t prepared for the abrupt turn to remote learning. Grace’s school, Groves High School, in one of the most well-regarded districts in the state, was no different.
In mid-March, thinking the closures might last for only a month, the district initially offered optional online activities and then recessed for an already-scheduled weeklong spring break. Soon after, Whitmer announced that schools would end face-to-face instruction for the rest of the year. The Birmingham Public Schools superintendent asked families for patience as schools moved to an online curriculum in mid-April and promised flexibility in their support. Officials said student work would be evaluated as credit/no-credit.
The initial days of remote school coincided with the start of Grace’s probation. Charisse was concerned that her daughter, who was a high school sophomore and had nearly perfect attendance, would have trouble without in-person support from teachers. Grace gets distracted easily and abandons her work, symptoms of her ADHD and a mood disorder, records show. Her Individualized Education Plan, which spelled out the school supports she should receive, required teachers to periodically check in to make sure she was on task and clarify the material, and it allowed her extra time to complete assignments and tests. When remote learning began, she did not get those supports, her mother said.
Days after the court hearing, on April 24, Grace’s new caseworker, Rachel Giroux, made notes in her file that she was doing well: Grace had called to check in at 8:57 a.m.; she reported no issues at home and was getting ready to log in to do her schoolwork.
But by the start of the following week, Grace told Giroux she felt overwhelmed. She had forgotten to plug in her computer and her alarm didn’t go off, so she overslept. She felt anxious about the probation requirements. Charisse, feeling overwhelmed as well, confided in the caseworker that Grace had been staying up late to make food and going on the internet, then sleeping in. She said she was setting up a schedule for Grace and putting a desk in the living room where she could watch her work.
“Worker told mother that child is not going to be perfect and that teenagers aren’t always easy to work with but you have to give them the opportunity to change,” according to the case progress notes. “Child needs time to adjust to this new normal of being on probation and doing work from home.”
Five days later, after calling Charisse and learning that Grace had fallen back to sleep after her morning caseworker check-in, Giroux filed a violation of probation against her for not doing her schoolwork.
Giroux told the prosecutor she planned to ask the judge to detain Grace because she “clearly doesn’t want to abide by the rules in the community,” according to the case notes.
Grace has said in court and in answers to questions from ProPublica that she was trying to do what was asked of her. She had checked in with her caseworker every day and complied with the other requirements of intensive probation, including staying at home and obeying all laws. She had told her special education teacher that she needed one-on-one help and began receiving daily tutoring the day after the probation violation was filed.
Giroux filed the violation of probation before confirming whether Grace was meeting her academic requirements. She emailed Grace’s teacher three days later, asking, “Is there a certain percentage of a class she is supposed to be completing a day/week?”
Grace’s teacher, Katherine Tarpeh, responded in an email to Giroux that the teenager was “not out of alignment with most of my other students.”
“Let me be clear that this is no one’s fault because we did not see this unprecedented global pandemic coming,” she wrote. Grace, she wrote, “has a strong desire to do well.” 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.”
Giroux declined to comment. Tarpeh told a reporter she was not allowed to discuss Grace’s case.
The May 14 hearing to decide whether Grace had violated her probation, and what would happen if she had, took place at the Oakland County courthouse when the Family Division was hearing only “essential emergency matters.”
Grace’s case was the only one heard in person in the courthouse that day.
Grace’s attorney, concerned about his health, participated by Zoom, though he told the judge it was difficult to represent her without being there. He told the judge he decided not to request a postponement because the family was worried she would detain Grace if they waited for a later court date.
The prosecution called Giroux, the caseworker, as its only witness. In response to questions from Grace’s attorney, she acknowledged she did not know what type of educational disabilities Grace had and did not answer a question about what accommodations those disabilities might require. Her assessment that Grace hadn’t done her schoolwork was based on a comment her mother made to her teacher, which Charisse testified she said in a moment of frustration and was untrue.
Grace’s special education teacher, Tarpeh, could have provided more information and planned to testify but had to leave the hearing to teach a class, according to the prosecutor.
Grace and her mother testified that she was handling her schoolwork more responsibly — and that she had permission to turn in her assignments at her own pace, as long as she finished by the end of the semester. And, Charisse said, Grace was behaving and not causing her any physical harm.
The transition to virtual school had been difficult, Grace testified, but she said she was making progress. “I just needed time to adjust to the schedule that my mom had prepared for me,” she said.
Brennan was unconvinced. Grace’s probation, she told her, was “zero tolerance, for lack of a better term.”
She sent her to detention. Grace was taken out of the courtroom in handcuffs.
From March 16, when Michigan courts began limiting operations to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, to June 29, at least 24 delinquency cases involving youth in Oakland County court resulted in placements to juvenile facilities. Of those, more than half involved young people who are Black, like Grace.
Those numbers, obtained by ProPublica from the Oakland County Circuit Court, reflect long-standing racial disparities in the state and county’s juvenile justice system. From January 2016 through June 2020, about 4,800 juvenile cases were referred to the Oakland court. Of those, 42% involved Black youth even though only about 15% of the county’s youth are Black.
A report released last month , which found inadequate legal representation for juveniles in Michigan, noted that research has shown a disproportionate number of youth of color are incarcerated in Michigan overall. Black youth in the state are incarcerated more than four times as often as their white peers, according to an analysis of federal government data by The Sentencing Project, a nonprofit that addresses racial disparities in the criminal justice system.
“It is clear that kids of color are disproportionately involved and impacted by the system across the board,” said Jason Smith of the nonprofit Michigan Center for Youth Justice, which works to reduce the confinement of youth. “They are more likely to be arrested, less likely to be offered any kind of diversion, more likely to be removed out of the home and placed in some sort of confinement situation.”
In Grace’s case, too, she was sent to a facility at a time when the governor had encouraged courts to send children home.
At the county-run Children’s Village, which has space for 216 youth in secure and residential settings, the population was down to 80 last week, according to the facility manager. There have been no COVID-19 cases in the youth population and four workers have tested positive from contacts outside Children’s Village, she said.
During March and April, 97 juveniles were released from Children’s Village by court order, said Pamela Monville, the Oakland County deputy court administrator. “We understood the orders and the concerns to stop the spread,” she said. Judges, caseworkers and attorneys worked together to determine “who could go back to the community,” she added.
Juvenile justice experts and disability advocates decried the decision to remove Grace from her home, particularly when “the state gave clear directives that children, and all people, unless it was a dire emergency, were to be kept out of detention,” said Kristen Staley, co-director of the Midwest Juvenile Defender Center, which works to improve juvenile defense across eight states.
Terri Gilbert, a former supervisor for juvenile justice programming in Michigan and a high-profile advocate, said the system suffers from inconsistencies in treatment and sentencing, aggravated by a lack of public information.
“This is too harsh of a sentence for a kid who didn’t do their homework. … There is so much research that points to the fact that this is not the right response for this crime,” said Gilbert, a member of a governor-appointed committee that focuses on juvenile justice. “Teenage girls act out. They get mouthy. They get into fights with her mothers. They don’t want to get up until noon. This is normal stuff.”
Monville said Brennan, a judge since 2008, “made the decision she made based on what she heard and her experience on the bench.”
But officials at the Michigan Protection & Advocacy Service, the state disabilities watchdog organization, said they were especially troubled that a student with special needs — one of the most vulnerable populations — was punished when students and teachers everywhere couldn’t adjust to online learning.
“It is inconceivable that, given the utterly unprecedented situation, a court would enforce expectations about what student participation in school means that was not tied to the reality of education during a pandemic,” said Kris Keranen, who oversees education for the group.
Charisse says the “greatest pain and devastation” of her life was watching Grace handcuffed in the courtroom. She got a letter in the mail a few days later:
“I want to change. I want to be a better person. Here I’ve realized how much you care and love me. I’m sorry I took that for granted. Please continue to send me pictures of me and you or just with anyone. I love you mommy and I miss you.”
On Juneteenth, the day that commemorates the end of slavery, Charisse sat alone at her kitchen table, the wall behind her covered with Grace’s childhood artwork. As the country faced a reckoning over systemic racism, the day had taken on increased recognition and Charisse lamented she and Grace couldn’t mark it together as they usually did, attending programs at church or at the Museum of African American History in Detroit.
Charisse made strawberry lemonade with fresh watermelon, a variation on the traditional red Juneteenth drink, and talked to Grace the only way she could, through a video call monitored by a Children’s Village case coordinator. The longest they had ever been separated before was when Grace attended a leadership sleepaway camp for six weeks over the summer.
“Juneteenth is all about freedom and you can’t even celebrate. What do you have? It has been taken away,” she said to her daughter.
Other than three recent visits, they have seen each other only on screen, including during a court status hearing in early June. On that day, Charisse watched as Grace walked into a room at Children’s Village handcuffed and with her ankles shackled, her mother said.
“For us and our culture, that for me was the knife stuck in my stomach and turning,” Charisse said. “That is our history, being shackled. And she didn’t deserve that.”
At the hearing, both Grace and her mother pleaded with the judge to return her home. “I will be respectful and obedient to my mom and all other people with authority,” Grace said. “I beg for your mercy to return me home to my mom and my responsibilities.”
The judge, however, sided with the caseworker and prosecutor. They agreed that Grace should stay at the Children’s Village not as punishment, but to get treatment and services. She ordered her to remain there and set a hearing to review the case for Sept. 8. By then, it will be a week into the new school year.
On Juneteenth, Charisse and Grace spoke for their full allotted 45 minutes. Grace wore a light blue polo shirt her mother had dropped off a few days earlier. Her hair was pushed back with a Lululemon headband.
Their conversation began with the mundane: Charisse reminded Grace to use her deodorant, and Grace said she needed to get her glasses fixed. But it landed, inevitably, at the frustration they both feel.
“I want you to write in your journal,” Charisse told Grace. She urged her “not to get too comfortable” in detention. “I want you to do what you are supposed to do, but I don’t want you to feel like this is your new norm.”
Grace’s initial weeks in detention were “repetitive and depressing,” she recently told ProPublica in response to written questions.
Grace was required to stay in her locked room from 8:30 p.m. to 8:30 a.m. She couldn’t turn the lights on and off herself and she slept on a mattress on a concrete slab, she said. She passed the time by reading, drawing and watching some TV.
The local school district provided packets of material but no classes. She said that she has not yet worked with a teacher in person or online, and that she meets less regularly with a therapist at Children’s Village than she did at home.
She has since been transferred to a long-term treatment program at Children’s Village, where she has a bit more freedom. Still, she tells her mother, it’s difficult to think about what she’s missing. “Everyone is moving past me now and I’m just here,” she said during the Zoom call.
A Children’s Village case coordinator, listening, tried to be encouraging. “You are doing very well right now,” she said. “Whatever happens, it looks good. You are respectful, you are following the rules.”
Then she told them their time was up.
“Stay strong,” Grace told her mom.
“You stay strong, too,” her mother replied. “I love you.”
“I love you, too.”
ProPublica is using middle names for the teenager and her mother to protect their identities.
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Grace needs to be back at home, she is in Juvenile Detention for not doing homework
Per acticle from Propublica
Grace a 15 year old girl was sent to a juvenile facility for not doing online homework.
I understand holding kids accountable, but this was an overreach. The judge should have found a different method for her to be at home. We have a pandemic going on and the best place for this child to be is with her mother. Being in the facility for a minor reason is not fair to her. It also will make her feel more caged in (as article state she was having cabin fever, due to the pandemic). From the article seems as if she is feeling lonely, depressed, not motivated and an outcast.
During this time with the pandemic we have been releasing adults. But we are going to lock up a child for something minor, when it was a different way to deal with the issue.
Per the article she was doing her work, she also asked for one on one help from the teacher. Her teacher says that she was doing well. She had permission to do her work at her own pace, and the work was supposed to be turned in at end of the semester. The semester was not over, how can she be accused of not doing work, when what she had done the teacher said was fine..
15% of the county's youth is black, yet 42% of cases that went to Oakland court were black - -and per the article they are less likely to be offered any type of diversion, removed from home and sent to a facility--just as we are seeing in Grace's case.
We have to band together as a community for our Black children. If this did not happen to her, it could have been my child or your child. But doing something we are putting them on notice saying, we see what you are doing, it is not right, and we will not stop until it is corrected. They are not even giving our children a chance, they are already sentencing them to the system as a child. We have learn the effects of confinement for adults, why are we doing this to our children? Other ways have to be found to hold children accountable for behavior, besides locking them up. Please sign so we can get her back home to her mother.
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Here’s How to Help Free Grace, a Black Girl Incarcerated for Not Doing Her Homework
Since May, a 15-year-old Black girl, identified only as "Grace," has been incarcerated in juvenile detention for not completing her online schoolwork. According to The Detroit News , Grace was originally put on probation for assault and theft charges related to a confrontation with her mother in November. Grace has been separated from her mother for more than two months now, amid a pandemic , and Oakland County Judge Mary Ellen Brennan has denied her early release twice. Her next hearing isn't scheduled until September, Click On Detroit reports, but there are ways you can help her right now.
In Michigan, where Grace is being held at a juvenile detention facility, Governor Gretchen Whitmer issued an executive order in March that temporarily suspended the confinement of juveniles who violate probation unless a young person posed a “substantial and immediate safety risk to others.” During the sentencing, as ProPublica reports, Brennan said that Grace hadn't "fulfilled the expectation with regard to school performance" and that she knew that she had been "on thin ice." Citing the original charges that led to her probation, Brennan also called Grace a “threat to (the) community.”
As Essence reports, Brennan has framed Grace's detention as a good thing, telling the teen, "The right thing is for your and your mom to be separated for right now."
Grace reportedly responded by telling the judge that she wanted to go home and asserting, "I can control myself. I can be obedient." She also added: "I miss my mom."
Grace's story has begun to receive widespread attention with various protesters, activists, and celebrities fighting for her release and justice. Some have pointed to the issue of the school to prison pipeline at play, which disproportionately keeps Black and Brown out of schools and in the streets or detention facilities.
According to data collected by the Department of Justice in October 2015, Black youth were more than five times as likely to be detained or committed compared to white youth.
That said, there are still ways to help change the course for Grace and others by taking action now.
Here's what you can do to help #FreeGrace, according to a post shared by Michigan-based communications activism group GoSociafy.
Sign the Change.org petition "Stop the School to Prison Pipeline - Free Grace from Incarceration"
Sign Advancement Project's petition here
Sign GoSociafy's petition here
Make calls and send emails
Contact Judge Mary Ellen Brennan to demand that she release Grace from detention immediately and provide her with the support and resources she needs. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays call (248)-858-3183 and on Tuesdays and Thursdays call (248)-858-0355. You can also email her clerks at [email protected] and [email protected]
Contact Attorney General Dana Nessel at (517)-335-7622 and [email protected] and Prosecutor Jessica R. Cooper at (248)-858-0656
Refer to GoSociafy's sample scripts for what to say in the post below.
View this post on Instagram We must demand justice and #FreeGrace from the juvenile criminal system. Please SHARE and SWIPE ➡️ through to see what action you can take. Link in our bio to the Google doc of actions/resources (credit to @reallifefrizzle), GoSociafy’s #FreeGrace petition, @advancementproject petition, and @miliberation petition. Edit: the correct number for Judge Brennan’s Office M, W, F is 248-701-3183 Addition: You can also call the Oakland County Executive Director (also up for re-election) at 248-858-1048. He wants the case reviewed. Let’s keep putting pressure. (thank you @onsameside for this info). Addition: Call the Oakland County Circuit Court at 248-858-0344 Also following the amazing organizers on the ground. Collaborative activism is the best kind. @niadawseyy, @samfxss, @everyblackgirl, @blmiac, + let us know if we’re missing any. ✊🏻✊🏼✊🏽✊🏿✊🏾 #blacklivesmatter #blackgirls #blackgirlsmatter #freegrace #michigan #oaklandcounty #justiceforgrace #criminaljusticereform #criminaljustice #racism #allblacklivesmatter A post shared by GoSociafy (@gosociafy) on Jul 16, 2020 at 1:51pm PDT
Grace's mother has been grateful for the support she has seen for her daughter so far. As reported by Click On Detroit , she released this statement:
“While we attempt to untangle the web that now confines my daughter and keeps her away from me, her family and the support that she needs, I want to thank the seemingly endless number of people—including numerous elected officials—who have expressed their concern and offered their support at the rallies. This situation is an emotional challenge, but is also a window into the brokenness that demands and deserves attention and repair as to prevent other children and families from being negatively impacted by a system that is supposed to offer protection and support.”
Michigan judge refuses to free girl in missed homework case
- Published 21 July 2020
A judge in the US state of Michigan has ruled that a schoolgirl detained after neglecting her homework and fighting with her mother cannot be released.
The black 15-year-old, identified by her middle name "Grace", has been in juvenile detention since May.
"I miss my mom," Grace reportedly told the court on Monday. "I can control myself. I can be obedient."
But the judge said detention was in her best interests for now. The case has sparked protests and claims of racism.
Judge Mary Ellen Brennan said the teenager had been benefiting from a residential treatment programme and was not yet ready to return to her mother.
"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," she told Grace, according to Michigan Radio.
Judge Brennan also said police had responded to multiple incidents between the mother and daughter, and that her detainment was a result of that.
"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.
She also addressed the public scrutiny the case has come under, saying she "would not be swayed by public clamour or fear of criticism".
The case was first highlighted last week in a report by US news site ProPublica. Following interviews with Grace's mother, the outlet described how the teenager had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and had already been struggling with behavioural issues.
Protests as teen detained over missed homework
How are African-Americans treated under the law?
'Home-schooling has been hell'
She was placed on probation in mid-April via a Zoom juvenile court hearing after facing an assault and theft charge last year; one of the terms of the probation was a requirement to do her schoolwork.
ProPublica reported that the start of Grace's probation coincided with the first days of remote schoolwork, and she quickly became overwhelmed without the in-person support of her teachers.
At a mid-May hearing at the Oakland County Family Court Division to decide whether Grace had violated her probation, Judge Brennan found the girl "guilty on failure to submit to any schoolwork and getting up for school" and called Grace a "threat to the community" because of the previous charges against her, it said.
Hundreds of students joined a rally outside Grace's school last week, calling for her release. "Black Lives Matter" signs were held up alongside "Free Grace" signs.
"I know if Grace was a 15-year-old white girl she would not be sitting in juvenile detention right now," a mother, Sheri Crawley, told local TV news station WDIV.
Thousands of people also signed online petitions calling for her release.
Another hearing has been scheduled for September, according to local media reports.
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‘Free Grace’ -- Oakland County judge sends teen to juvenile detention over school work
School officials claim to have had no input on judge's order.
Shawn Ley , Reporter
Dane Kelly , Web Producer
BEVERLY HILLS, Mich. – A teenage girl was sent back to juvenile detention for not completing her homework and protesters are calling it racial discrimination.
The controversy centers around a Wylie E. Groves High School student who got caught up in the juvenile justice system.
A judge decided the teen, named Grace, violated her probation by not completing online schoolwork and sent her to juvenile detention.
Protesters gathered Thursday to speak up for Grace.
“I know if Grace was a 15-year-old White girl she would not be sitting in juvenile detention right now,” said Sheri Crawley.
Crawley is a mother with teenage daughters. She said her heart sank when she heard Grace was in the juvenile justice system for fighting and stealing. Then she broke down when she heard Oakland County Family Court presiding judge Mary Ellen Brennan sent Grace to juvenile detention for violating her probation by not finishing her online school work.
“I dropped to my knees,” Crawley said. “My daughters woke up hearing me cry.”
Brennan’s decision caused a firestorm of controversy. Protesters gathered at Groves High School on 13 Mile Road , then marched to the Oakland County Courts complex.
“We want to make sure all measures are examined before incarceration that’s with COVID or not COVID,” said Southfield Rep. Kyra Bolden.
July 16, 2020: Michigan coronavirus (COVID-19) cases up to 71,842; Death toll now at 6,101
Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper said “The controversy involves a Family Court judge’s decision on a case she took jurisdiction on a while ago. Only she can change or modify the Order.”
Birmingham school officials said they had no say in the judge’s order and held a special meeting Thursday to review Grace’s case and how to proceed to help her and others like her.
Copyright 2020 by WDIV ClickOnDetroit - All rights reserved.
About the Authors:
Local 4 Defender Shawn Ley is an Emmy award-winning journalist who has been with Local 4 News for more than a decade.
Dane is a producer and media enthusiast. He previously worked freelance video production and writing jobs in Michigan, Georgia and Massachusetts. Dane graduated from the Specs Howard School of Media Arts.
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Jailed for Not Doing Homework, Michigan Teen Tells Her Own Story
Grace, a 16-year-old in Michigan who was incarcerated after not doing her online schoolwork is now released and fighting to make her story heard, ProPublica reports.
After serving a 78-day sentence at Children’s Village in Oakland County, Grace was released after the Michigan Court of Appeals ordered her release.
After Grace’s story gained attention across the country, some members of Congress called for a civil rights investigation as well as the Michigan Supreme Court ordering a review of the procedures that landed Grace in jail.
Grace, whose last name has been kept private, is now at a new school and has a job with Michigan Liberation , where she’s able to speak to people in her community and advocate for more criminal justice reform.
She recently spoke out about her story at Every Black Girl’s annual conference.
“You deserve better than your mistakes,” Grace said during the conference. “Your past does not define you.”
“Not only was Grace released, but the community has continued to surround and support her in love and affirmation; she had the ‘last word,’ at the Justice for Black Girls means Every Black Girl conference and inspired everyone in attendance,” said a Facebook post by Every Black Girl.
Her hashtag, #FreeGrace exploded over the summer and led to more than 350,000 signatures on a petition for Grace’s release from jail.
Grace’s story gained national attention over the summer when ProPublica Illinois investigated Grace’s case.
She was on probation for charges of assault and theft, and was incarcerated after she didn’t complete online schoolwork. Not completing her schoolwork, even while the pandemic brought major structural changes to the school system, was considered a violation of her probation.
Grace was incarcerated in May, even though education and law officials “urged leniency and a prioritization of children’s health and safety amid the crisis,” said the Propublica Illinois article.
In March, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued an executive order that lessened the amount of youth in detention centers unless they were considered a “substantial and immediate safety risk to others,” according to ProPublica.
Even though Grace’s probation violation wasn’t violent or dangerous to society, Judge Mary Ellen Brennan still ruled against her, saying that Grace’s charges of theft and assault were a “threat to (the) community,” and that not completing her schoolwork was a clear violation.
“She hasn’t fulfilled the expectation with regard to school performance,” Brennan told ProPublica. “I told her she was on thin ice and I told her that I was going to hold her to the letter, to the order, of the probation.”
Brennan is up for reelection on Nov. 2. She is running unopposed.
Even Grace’s teacher, when contacted by her case worker, said that Grace wasn’t “out of alignment” more than most of her other students, meaning that Grace’s one misstep that caused her to be sent to jail didn’t even make a difference in her schoolwork.
This reflects a larger problem of disproportionate sentencing and treatment of Black people within America’s criminal justice system, advocates say.
Oakland County’s juvenile cases comprise 42 percent Black youth, even though the Oakland County youth population is only 15 percent Black.
“There are so many other Graces out there who need a voice, and they need to be heard,” Grace said. “They are screaming, they’re yelling, they’re asking for help.”
While Grace wasn’t immediately given a jail sentence, the quickness by which the court sent her to jail after doing something that most youth across the country have done during the pandemic points to issues within the juvenile justice system.
Grace’s story has also called attention to how online learning is even harder for students with learning disabilities. Accommodations through online environments are tricky, and students like Grace who have ADHD or other learning disabilities are more likely to lose focus or get distracted in a completely online environment.
According to Propublica , Grace’s caseworker who filed the violation of her probation, “did not know what type of educational disabilities Grace had and did not answer a question about what accommodations those disabilities might require.”
Had the situation been more focused on how to help Grace with managing the new online environment instead of immediately resorting to punishment, she might have never gone to jail in the first place.
Propublica Illinois said that because juvenile cases have more confidentiality, it is “impossible to determine” whether a case like Grace’s is normal or not in today’s juvenile justice system.
Since her release, Grace has not had any further problems with the law.
Read more: School-to-Prison Pipeline Still Functions During Pandemic, Advocates Warn
Jailing of 15-Year-Old for Missing Online Schoolwork Tied to ‘Systematic Racism’
Emily Riley is a TCR news reporting intern.
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