Politics

6-year-old Florida girl committed to mental health facility for 'temper tantrum at school'

A black Florida mother is demanding accountability after her  6-year-old daughter with special needs was committed to a mental health facility for a 48-hour psychiatric evaluation without her consent. Authorities claimed in an incident report CNN obtained that Nadia King was “destroying school property, attacking staff, out of control, and running out of school” February 4, but by the time two Florida deputies arrived at Love Grove Elementary School the child appeared to have calmed down, according to body camera footage that showed her walking and asking officers questions.

A school social worker, however, told deputies Nadia was “a threat to herself and others,” according to CNN. The child was transported to River Point Behavioral Health, and her mother wasn’t notified until after Nadia was on her way to the facility, Reganel Reeves, the mother’s attorney told CNN. The family plans to file a lawsuit and is accusing the school district of having Nadia committed for “a temper tantrum at school,” Reeves told news outlets. “If you can’t deal with a 50-pound child, 6-year-old, then you shouldn’t be in education,” he said in a CBS News interview.  

Nadia, who was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, a mood disorder and is being tested for autism, had switched medications recently, which the school was made aware of, Reeves said. In body camera video the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office released to CNN, a female deputy escorting Nadia to the facility was heard describing the child as “actually very pleasant,” to which a male deputy replied: “I think it’s more of them not wanting to deal with it.” At one point in her encounter with the deputies, Nadia asked them if she was going to jail, and the female deputy told her she wasn’t.

Duval County Public Schools said in a statement CNN obtained that school staff members followed the district’s protocol and that a mental health worker with the local behavioral health care nonprofit Child Guidance made the decision to have Nadia taken to the mental health facility. “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 told CNN.

In its defense of the decision, the school district cited the Florida Mental Health Act, more commonly referred to as the Baker Act, which was intended to give families and loved ones the authority to authorize emergency health services for people with mental illnesses, according to the University of Florida Health. “People who require the use of the Baker Act have often lost the power of self-control, and they are likely to inflict harm to themselves or others,” the university said on its website. “It is important that the Baker Act only be used in situations where the person has a mental illness and meets all the remaining criteria for voluntary or involuntary admission.”  Named after former Florida Rep. Maxine Baker who sponsored the legislation in 1972, the act requires a facility notify parents or guardians immediately after the child arrives at the facility.

In Nadia’s case, the school district told CNN: “It was the mental health counselor from Child Guidance, not the police officer or school personnel, who made the Baker Act decision. 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.”

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