Florida Mother is Pursuing Legal Action after her Daughter was Held in a Mental Health Facility for 48 Hours
A Florida mother has plans to take legal action against a school district after her 6-year-old daughter was thrown into a mental health facility for 48 hours.
Martina Falk claimed her daughter, who is a kindergarten student at Duval County Public Schools, was allegedly taken to River Point Behavioral Health without Falk’s permission in accordance to the Baker Act. Falk was unable to visit her daughter, who was reportedly put on antipsychotic drugs. Her daughter did not return home until February 6, two days after her admission to the center, according to a report from The Florida Times-Union.
The Baker Act allows people to be held involuntarily for 72 hours if authorities believe they present an imminent threat to themselves or others.
“I was crying, I was hysterical, I was angry,” Falk told The New York Times. “I don’t think she should have been Baker Acted. Why did they feel this was necessary?”
The Times reported that Falk’s daughter supposedly threw a tantrum. The mental health counselor informed the mother about the daughter’s tantrum after the decision to send the 6-year-old to the mental health facility.
The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office report of the incident claims a social worker told police the student was “destroying school property, attacking staff, out of control, and running out of school.”
Reganel Reeves, Falk’s legal counsel, said in a statement to The Hill that Falk has a lawsuit in the works “that will be seeking redress for my client’s civil rights violations and emotional distress.”
Falk’s daughter, who was diagnosed with ADHD and a mood disorder, was accused of destroying school property and throwing chairs, which prompted the Jacksonville Sheriff’s to take action, according to the Times-Union.
Tracy Pierce, a Duval County Public Schools spokeswoman, explained that the Child Guidance Center, a crisis-response firm, ultimately decided to send the girl to the health center.
“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,” Pierce commented in a statement to The Hill. “Our staff followed that procedure.”
Body camera footage, which the Times-Union obtained, shows officers peacefully escorting the daughter, who “calmly walked to the police car.” One officer told another fellow officer that she was “pleasant” and “cooperative.”
However. school officials assert that the officers were not present during the outburst, and the decision was already taken, according to Pierce’s statement.
Falk’s legal team believes that the girl did not need to be taken to or held in the facility if she was calm. The Times reported that the daughter is attending a different school now.
Theresa Rulien, CEO and president of the Child Guidance Center, said the center cannot give specific details about the incident due to federal privacy regulations. However, she added that Chile Guidance Center’s mental health professionals generally send someone to an “involuntary examination if they pose a significant harm to themselves or others.”
Rulien clarified in a statement that the center ultimately does not decide the amount of time the person stays in the facility.