The mother of 6-year-old Nadia King is considering a lawsuit after an elementary school’s child crisis provider invoked the state’s Baker Act, placing the girl at a behavioral health center for 48 hours without her mother’s consent.
Martina Falk, Nadia’s mother, says her daughter has ADHD and global developmental delay (a term for children who have taken longer to reach developmental milestones such as walking or talking). She’s awaiting testing for Asperger syndrome. “She performs on a 3 or 4-year-old level,” Falk tells TIME, saying that this is making it hard for her to communicate what she experienced while committed for 48 hours at the mental health facility.
“She’ll say, ‘mommy, I don’t want another shot,'” Falk says. “It’s very scary because I’m afraid of what happened to her.”
According to an incident report by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Department, officers responded to a call from a social worker at Love Grove Elementary School in Jacksonville, Florida, on Feb. 4. A social worker there said that Nadia was “a threat to herself and others” and had been destroying school property, attacking staff, and was out of control.
A statement from the school district, Duval County Public Schools, shared with local news outlet Action News Jax, says the school officials followed protocol by calling Child Guidance, a crisis care provider, and that it was a mental health counselor from Child Guidance who made the Baker Act decision, not the school officials. (The district did not respond to TIME’s requests for comment.)
The incident report states that Nadia’s mother was notified that her daughter was being transported. Falk and her attorney tell TIME that Falk was not notified until after the Baker Act had been invoked, and was not given a say as to whether or not her daughter should be committed, she says. Nadia was taken to River Point Behavioral Center, an 82-bed treatment facility that specializes in mental health, substance abuse and dual diagnosis services. River Point accepts patients of all ages under provisions of the Baker Act.
The Baker Act is a Florida law that allows individuals to be involuntarily institutionalized if the individual is believed to be mental ill and poses a threat of serious bodily harm to themself or others, according to the State of Florida Department of Children and Families. Falk waited for several hours at the facility before she had a chance to see her daughter, who she says was sedated.
Body camera footage released Thursday by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office shows Nadia being escorted out of Love Grove and placed in the back seat of a police car, on her way to be involuntarily committed.
In the footage, Nadia appears calm as a female officer holds her hand and leads her off the campus. “She’s been actually very pleasant. Right? Very pleasant,” one unidentified officer can be heard saying to another officer. “I think they’re pushing the button because when I got here, she’s been so cooperative with me.”
Nadia is now receiving temporary funding to attend a school that specializes in teaching children with autism, Falk said.
In the 2017/2018 fiscal year, the last for which records are available, children made up 17.53% of all Baker Act involuntary examinations, according to the Baker Act Reporting Center — that’s 36,078 children who were involuntarily committed and examined at a mental health facility. Statewide involuntary examinations increased nearly 19% for children over the five years prior to 2017.
Now Falk and Reganel Reeves, her attorney, are calling for changes to the act and its implementation. They are asking that Florida school districts implement better protocols to ensure parents are notified before the Baker Act is invoked, and that children under 10 years old only be subject to the act under extreme circumstances.
“There’s not a lot of litigation out there and that’s why these schools have been so emboldened to [invoke the Baker Act]” says Reeves. “We do really want to get this case in court… We don’t think Florida should be Baker Acting babies.”
The Duval County Public Schools district’s statement sent to Action News Jax acknowledges that Nadia was calm when officers arrived.
“Note that the officers in the video were not present during the events which motivated the school to call Child Guidance, our crisis response care provider,” the statement by the district said. “The police officers were also not present when Child Guidance was intervening with the student. It was the mental health counselor from Child Guidance, not the police officer or school personnel, who made the Baker Act decision.”
In the footage, Nadia can be heard asking for snacks, asking when she’ll see her mom and if she’s going to jail. “No you are not going to jail,” one officer tells her. “You’re not [a] bad person, you’re not going to jail.”
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