(JACKSONVILLE, Fla.) — A 6-year-old Florida student was sent to a mental health facility under the Baker Act on Feb. 4 after a series of alleged outbursts at school, and authorities and her family said she was kept there for 48 hours.
Now her mother is speaking out about the incident, saying the entire situation was avoidable and is a complete outrage.
Martina Falk said officials from Love Grove Elementary School in Jacksonville called her that day to inform her that her daughter, Nadia, was out of control and would be sent to a mental health institution based on the recommendation of licensed health care professionals.
“I was alerted of an incident after she was Baker Acted,” Falk said in an interview with Good Morning America.
Falk said a resource officer told her she’d need to get in contact with the psychiatric hospital. She said the officer told her: “‘There’s nothing else we could do. Your daughter is completely out of control, and we were not able to de-escalate the situation.'”
Nadia allegedly was destroying school property, attacking staff, was out of control and running out of school, a clinical social worker said, according to the police incident report.
The school said it was the decision of a third-party, not the school, to Baker Act the child. In Florida, the Baker Act allows for a person to be held involuntary at a mental health facility for up to 72 hours if that person is deemed a danger to themselves or others.
“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,” Duval County Public Schools said in a statement to ABC News.
After Falk learned her daughter was taken to a mental health institution without her input, she said she felt a wide range of emotions, but most of all, she felt “helpless.”
“Heartbroken. I felt anger. Disappointment. But I think the biggest emotion, I felt, was helpless,” Falk told GMA. “Because I know that I’ve done everything I could possibly do to help my daughter at this school.”
Falk said her daughter, who had been diagnosed with an intellectual disability, was enrolled in this school precisely because it catered toward students like her daughter. She said she thought she struck gold since the school had small classroom sizes and “specifically trained staff for special needs children that were similar to my daughter.”
Her attorney, Reganel Reeves, said the girl had been experiencing tantrums in school for a few days.
In body-camera footage released by police, Nadia is seen walking calmly hand-in-hand with the officer, asking if she’s going to jail and if the officer had a snack, before being asked to sit in the back seat of the police car.
“No, you’re not going to jail. You’re not no bad person, you’re not going to jail,” the officer is heard saying on the footage.
The officer is then heard telling another cop that “she’s fine, there’s nothing wrong with her,” after saying (before the footage cut off) that the school “may have agitated her a little bit.”
In response to the released footage, the school district told ABC News that law enforcement was not present when Nadia’s alleged actions motivated the district to call for help.
“The police officers were also not present when Child Guidance was intervening with the student,” the district said. “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 they want to sit down with school officials so Nadia can continue with her education.
“I just don’t want us to be perceived like we’re simply just out for money. We really want to try to resolve Nadia’s educational status so she can go to school,” Reeves told GMA. “So that’s really what our goal is, not really a lawsuit at this point.”
However, Reeves said someone must pay the consequences for how Nadia and her mother were treated.
“We’re prepared to put the state of Florida on notice and let them know that this is not acceptable. We must protect our children. So we’re asking for a dialog, a conversation. Since this is out here now, don’t let this go in vain,” Reeves said.
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