MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A Florida law is under new scrutiny after a 6-year-old girl was involuntarily committed to a mental health facility following an incident at school.
Martina Falk is now questioning the wisdom of the Baker Act, which allows authorities to force a psychiatric evaluation on anyone considered to be a danger to themselves or others, including kids.
“I specifically placed my daughter at this school back in 2015 because I was told they had specifically trained staff to handle special needs children,” Falk said.
Falk said her 6-year-old daughter Nadia has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and a mood disorder.
Surrounded by her legal team, she told CBS News her daughter’s nearly two-day mandatory stay at a mental health center did more harm than good.
“She’s traumatized. She’s not herself. I don’t know what the long-term effects are,” Falk said.
It all happened at Love Grove Elementary.
In the sheriff’s report, a responding social worker said the girl was a threat to herself and others, “destroying school property” and “attacking staff.”
She was removed from school and committed to a behavioral health center for psychiatric evaluation under the Florida law.
At a press conference earlier in the week, Falk demanded answers.
“I’ve been begging for help, trying to give my daughter an education,” she said.
The Duval County School District told CBS News that Baker Act decisions are made by a third-party licensed mental health care professional.
“We’ve reviewed the school’s handling of this situation and find it to be compliant both with law and the best interest of this student and all other students at the school,” the district said.
But critics wonder if the Baker Act being overused – especially when it comes to school kids.
In 2018, in Cocoa, Florida, a 12-year-old boy with autism was hauled off in a police cruiser.
It was the boy’s first day in middle school. During a meltdown, he scratched himself and then made a suicidal reference. That’s when the school resource officer acted.
The boy’s mom, Staci Plonsky, said the school should have called her before enforcing the Baker Act.
“The behavior plan outlined what to do if he makes verbal threats, if he says certain things, if he scratches his arms,” she said. “They only had to follow the plan.”
The number of children involuntarily transported to a mental health center in Florida has more than doubled in the last 15 years, to about 36,000.
“I absolutely think that the Baker Act is being overused,” said State Rep. Jennifer Webb.
This week, Florida’s legislature debated major reforms to nearly 50-year-old law.
Webb’s bill would require better training for school officials and resource officers and establish more consistent rules on exactly when a parent should be notified that their child might be committed.
“I think it should only be used as a last resort. And Baker Acting 6 year olds just seems excessive to me,” said Webb.
Webb believes funds allotted for schools after the high school shooting in Parkland can be used for better training.
As for the 6-year-old girl in the case here in Jacksonville, her mother is now looking for a different school for her.