Mom to Take Legal Action After Daughter Held at Mental Health Center Without Her Consent

Paula Liu
By Paula Liu
February 19, 2020USshare
Mom to Take Legal Action After Daughter Held at Mental Health Center Without Her Consent
A stock image of a school bus. (Joshua Hoehne/Unsplash)

A Florida woman plans to take legal action against a school district after her 6-year-old daughter was held at a mental facility for 48 hours, according to multiple reports.

Martina Falk, the girl’s mother, told the Florida Times-Union she was unable to see her daughter when she was taken from her kindergarten classroom at Love Grove Elementary School in Jacksonville to River Point Behavioral Health Center without her permission until Feb 6., two days after she was admitted to the facility. There, Falk says, her daughter was held for an involuntary evaluation and given anti-psychotic medication without her consent.

“I was crying, I was hysterical, I was angry. I don’t think she should have been Baker Acted. Why did they feel this was necessary,?” Falk told The New York Times, referring to the Baker Act, a Florida law that allows the people to be held involuntarily for up up 72 hours if authorities say they are an imminent danger to themselves or others.

The 6-year-old was reportedly throwing a tantrum in her special needs class, destroying school property and throwing chairs, the school’s social worker told Falk. The social worker said the girl, who is diagnosed with ADHD and a mood disorder, was “destroying school property, attacking staff, out of control, and running out of school.” The school then contacted the Jacksonville’s Sheriff’s Office to take the child to the mental health center, where she was held from Feb. 4 to Feb. 6. After the decision was made to enact the Baker Act, the school’s mental health counselor informed Falk in a call, reported the NYT.

Tracy A. Pierce, a spokesperson for Duval County Public Schools, said the decision not made by the school but by Child Guidance, a crisis-response firm. Pierce told The Hill in a statement that the school followed procedure by contacting the firm. “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,” she said.

Police bodycam footage shows the officer who escorted the child to the health center describing her as calm, “pleasant,” and “cooperative.”

Falk’s lawyer, Reganel Reeves, said that Falk is preparing to file a lawsuit against the Duval County Public Schools “that will be seeking redress for my client’s civil right’s violations and emotional distress.” He said his team has “put [the school district] on notice and [they] intend to take legal action.”

Falk said that she had initially enrolled her daughter into Love Grove Elementary School because of its special needs program due to her daughter’s disorders, but has since enrolled her into another school.

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