The mother of a six-year-old Florida girl is demanding answers after her daughter was involuntarily committed to a mental health facility last week after an incident at a Jacksonville elementary school under a law meant for emergency application by law enforcement, judges and others.
Martina Falk said on Monday (February 10) that her daughter Nadia is traumatized by what happened at the facility and doesn’t understand why such extreme measures were taken by the school.
During a press conference, she said she’s not planning on filing a lawsuit, but just wants answers from both Duval County Public Schools and the facility where her daughter was committed.
"She’s my everything and I love her, and I’ll do anything to protect her and other children with disabilities,” Falk told Jacksonville station WJXT.
Falk told the stationon February 4, she says everything was normal when she sent Nadia off to Love Grove Elementary.
“Then, a couple of hours later, I got a call saying that she is so uncontrollable that they had to Baker Act her," Falk said. “They called me and said ‘Ms. Falk we’re calling to let you know that there’s nothing else we could do.’ 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. My baby was scared. She wanted me.”
According to University of Florida Health, the Florida Mental Health Act of 1971, more commonly known as the Baker Act, “enables families and loved ones to provide emergency mental health services and temporary detention for people who are impaired because of their mental illness, and who are unable to determine their needs for treatment.
Falk said the young girl was heavily sedated, put under a mandatory 48-hour hold and released on February 6. In 2017, Nadia was diagnosed with ADHD and is currently awaiting test results to see if she’s on the autism spectrum. She is on medication for numerous mental health issues and is in a special needs class.
Body camera footage released this week by Jacksonville police shows the girl holding the hand of a female officer while being led to a police car. The officer tells Nadia that she’s not going to jail and trying to keep her calm.
“You going to be good? You’re not going to throw nothing around like you did in there, are you? You going to be nice to me like you’re being?” the officer says, to which Nadia replies “yeah.”
“Good deal,” the officer says.
But the footage also depicts the officer who believes she may have agitated the child interacting with another officer.
“Follow me just in case. But, she hasn’t -- she’s actually been very pleasant. Right? Very pleasant. I think they’re pushing the button, because when I got there she’s been so cooperative with me and talking, sat down, did everything,” she says.
“Yeah. You poke the bear one too many times, it’s going to scratch you,” the male officer replies. “Yeah. Because they said this is the fourth out of five days she’s been acting like this,” she said.
Duval County Schools says the decision to commit Nadia was made by a third-party licensed mental health professional. Law enforcement reportedly drove Nadia to the hospital while Falk says she was not made aware of the situation until after the decision to transport her was made.
The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office issued a report, claiming Nadia destroyed school property, attacked staff, and was out of control and running out of school.
Dr. Amit Vijapura, a board-certified psychiatrist, said that while school may have had grounds to involve law enforcement, it’s very uncommon to Baker Act a six-year-old.
“If it’s a pattern of behaviors, then they should Baker Act, but if it’s isolated then we have to allow the parent to make a judgment call and say he or she would be ok at home let me take them home,” Vijapura said, according to WJXT.
Falk said she was never given that opportunity.
“That’s not acceptable. I deserve to know whether my daughter was being difficult that day or not. She’s helpless," she said. “I was assured they would take care of her and they had staff specifically trained to help her and this is the help I get — a psychiatric hospital."
Duval County Public Schools issued a statement the station explaining the situation and refuted a previous report that said Nadia was handcuffed and removed from school.
“At no time, did the principal see the child placed in handcuffs,” DCPS relayed in the statement. “Once staff and the mental health therapist were able to deescalate the behavior, the child was escorted out of the school calmly holding hands with the principal and the police officer to the police officer’s vehicle. While we must always protect student privacy, I can tell you that Baker Acting a student is a medical intervention that is initiated upon evaluation by either a law enforcement officer or a licensed mental health professional based on specific criteria according to Florida Statute. In many cases, it is initiated by a mental health professional.”
It continues: “We have communicated with the parent and continue to be in communication with the parent regarding the educational setting and services that will best meet this student’s needs. The district’s obligation is to protect both the child in crisis as well as all of the other children in the school.”
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