JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A Florida mother wants answers after her 6-year-old daughter was involuntarily placed in a mental facility for 48 hours after an incident at school Feb. 4.
Martina Falk told WJXT that Duval County Public Schools called her to say her daughter, Nadia, was “so uncontrollable that they had to Baker Act her.”
The Baker Act is a Florida law that protects the “involuntary examination” of a person believed to be suffering from a mental illness who may cause harm to herself or others.
“They called me and said ‘Ms. Falk we’re calling to let you know that there’s nothing else we could do,'” Falk said. “There’s nothing else you could do for my 6-year-old? When she was taken to that hospital to be locked away in this isolation, seclusion room. They said they did that as an attempt to calm her down.”
The Jacksonville County Sheriff’s office released body camera footage of a deputy leading Nadia out of the school. According to a sheriff’s report obtained by CBS News, a social worker said Nadia, who has been diagnosed with ADHD and a mood disorder, was “attacking staff” at Love Grove Elementary School and “destroying school property.”
The bodycam video shows Nadia calmly asking officers, “Am I going to jail”
A female deputy responds, “No, you’re not going to jail. You’re not going to jail.”
After taking a seat in the back of the patrol car, Nadia asks, “Do you have snacks?”
The deputy can be heard telling another officer, “She’s been actually very pleasant, right? Very pleasant.”
The other officer replies, “I think it’s more of them just not knowing how to deal with it.”
At one point Nadia, uncertain of what is happening asks the deputy, “It’s a field trip?”
Nadia was then held for 48 hours for evaluation, according to CBS News.
Falk, accompanied by her attorney, broke down in tears during a press conference as she watched the deputy describe how calm her daughter was in the car.
“She’s just not able to communicate that due to her disability. She can only tell you bits and pieces,” Falk recalled her daughter saying. “Mommy they locked the door, they wouldn’t let me out.”
“(Nadia) had tantrums,” Falk’s attorney, Reganel Reeves said. “Six-year-old kids have tantrums. Children with special needs have tantrums.”
Reeves also said that the facility injected Nadia with Thorazine, an anti-psychotic drug.
A Duval County Public Schools spokesperson said in a statement that it was the social worker, not the police or school personnel who made the Baker Act decision.
“I want answers,” Falk said at the news conference. “An apology would be nice, but it’s not going to erase the pain that I feel watching that video knowing my daughter may have been provoked because their staff was irritated or maybe had a bad day and didn’t want to deal with a special needs child.”
In response to the release of the bodycam footage, DCPS issued the following statement:
“We were clear in our earliest public statements that the student walked calmly out with the principal and the officer to the police car. Media reports on the video confirm this and also confirm that handcuffs were not used as was originally alleged.
With regard to the statements made on the video, 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 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.
Our procedure is to call Child Guidance when a student’s crisis is not de-escalating and the student is at risk of self-harm or harming others. Our staff followed that procedure.
As we stated previously, 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. The judgment to Baker Act rested completely with the mental health professional.
We cannot speak on behalf of Child Guidance regarding decision making in this matter, but we have already requested a leadership meeting with Child Guidance to review this situation.”