Florida mother plans legal action after 6-year-old held 48 hours over tantrum: reports

Florida mother plans legal action after 6-year-old held 48 hours over tantrum: reports
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A Florida mother is planning to take legal action against a school district after her 6-year-old daughter was held in a mental health facility for 48 hours.

Martina Falk said her daughter, who attends kindergarten at Duval County Public Schools, was allegedly taken to River Point Behavioral Health without her permission under the Baker Act. Falk was unable to see her daughter, who was reportedly given antipsychotic drugs, or return her home until Feb. 6, two days after her admission to the center, The Florida Times-Union reported last week. 

The Baker Act permits people to be held involuntarily for 72 hours if authorities say they are an imminent danger to themselves or others. 

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“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?”

Falk’s daughter was reportedly throwing a tantrum, the mental health counselor at the school told the mother in a call after the decision had been made, according to the Times.

The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office report from the incident says a social worker told police the student was "destroying school property, attacking staff, out of control, and running out of school."

Reganel Reeves, a lawyer representing Falk, said in a statement to The Hill that Falk is preparing to file a lawsuit “that will be seeking redress for my client’s civil right’s violations and emotional distress.”

Falk’s daughter, who was diagnosed with ADHD and a mood disorder, was reported to be destroying school property and throwing chairs, leading to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office being called, according to the Times-Union.

Tracy Pierce, a Duval County Public Schools spokesperson, said the Child Guidance Center, a crisis-response firm, made the decision to send the girl to the health center. 

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“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 said in a statement to The Hill. “Our staff followed that procedure.”

Body camera footage, obtained by the Times-Union showed officers escorting the daughter, who “calmly walked to the police car.” One officer described her to a fellow officer as “pleasant” and “cooperative,”

But school officials maintain the officers were not present during the altercation, and the decision had already been made, according to Pierce's statement.

Falk’s legal team argues that the girl did not need to be taken to or kept in the facility if she was calm. The daughter is attending another school, the Times reported.

Theresa Rulien, CEO and president of the Child Guidance Center, said the center cannot comment specifically on the incident due to federal privacy regulations, but added that, in general, its mental health professionals send someone to an "involuntary examination if they pose a significant harm to themselves or others."

The center does not decide the amount of time someone is in the facility, she added in a statement.

—This report was updated at 2:55 p.m.