JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (CNN) — A 6-year-old special needs girl in Florida was involuntarily committed to a mental health facility because she was “out of control” at school, according to a Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office incident report.
Authorities were called to the Love Grove Elementary School last week after the girl was “destroying school property, attacking staff, out of control, and running out of school,” the report said.
After a clinical social worker at the school told the responding officers that the girl was “a threat to herself and others,” she was taken to the River Point Behavioral Health for a 48-hour psychiatric evaluation under Florida’s Baker Act, the report states.
The Baker Act allows mental health facilities to hold a person for up to 72 hours for evaluation. A law enforcement officer, a mental health professional or a Circuit Court judge may involuntarily commit an individual under the act if they are thought to be mentally ill, are refusing a voluntary examination and are thought to pose a threat to themselves or others.
Between July 2017 and June 2018, there were 36,078 involuntary examinations initiated under the Baker Act for individuals under the age of 18 in Florida, according to a report from the state’s Department of Children and Families.
An attorney for the girl’s mother, Reganel Reeves, said a school representative contacted the mother after the decision to admit the girl was made and she was on her way to the facility.
Reeves said the girl is a special needs child who had “a temper tantrum at school.” She has been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, known as ADHD, a mood disorder and is being tested for autism, the attorney said.
In a statement, Duval County Public Schools said the school staff followed the district’s procedure throughout the incident and then they notified the girl’s parent.
The decision to admit the girl under the Baker Act was made by a licensed mental health care professional employed by Child Guidance, a private, non-profit community behavioral health care organization, the school district said.
“When a student’s behavior presents a risk of self-harm or harm to others, the school district’s procedure is to call Child Guidance, our crisis response provider,” the school district said.
‘She’s been actually very pleasant,’ officer says
Nadia’s mother, Martina Falk, still doesn’t know what exactly happened at the school but says her daughter should have never been taken to the mental health facility, her attorney said.
The attorney said the girl is not able to “convey verbally what happened.”
Her medicine had been changed recently, Reeves said, adding that might be a reason that she has been having a hard time. Her mother told the school about the medication change, but she says the school never mentioned any issues before the incident on February 4.
Body camera video released by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office shows the moment two officers exited the school with the girl, holding her hand and leading her to a police cruiser.
When she asks if she’s going to jail, a female officer responds “no” and tells her not to throw any more chairs.
Moments later, the female officer is heard saying, “She’s been actually very pleasant.”
“I think it’s more of them not wanting to deal with it,” a male officer replied, according to the video.
The school district said officers were not present during the “events” that led to the school to call Child Guidance nor 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,” the district said in a statement. “The student was calm when she left the school, but at that point, Child Guidance had already made the decision to Baker Act based on their intervention with the student.”
Reeves said parents should have a chance to intervene before a mental health worker makes a decision because a phone call to the parent or guardian might help calm a child.
The family wants an investigation into what happened, what actions were taken and who made the decision to send the girl to a mental health facility, Reeves said.
“We want accountability,” the attorney said.