JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The mother of a 6-year-old girl is demanding answers after her daughter was involuntarily committed to a mental health facility last week after an episode at a Jacksonville elementary school.
Martina Falk said Monday her daughter is traumatized and does not understand why the school needed to take such extreme measures.
Falk said during a press conference that she isn’t looking to file a lawsuit, she just wants answers from both Duval County Public Schools and the mental health facility where the little girl was committed.
"She’s my everything and I love her, and I’ll do anything to protect her and other children with disabilities,” Falk told News4Jax.
Tuesday morning started off like every other morning for Falk when she sent her daughter Nadia off to Love Grove Elementary.
“Then, a couple of hours later, I got a call saying that she is so uncontrollable that they had to Baker Act her," Falk said. “They called me and said ‘Ms. Falk we’re calling to let you know that there’s nothing else we could do.’ There’s nothing else you could do for my 6-year-old? When she was taken to that hospital to be locked away in this isolation, seclusion room. They said they did that as an attempt to calm her down. My baby was scared. She wanted me.”
Falk said her child was heavily sedated. She was then put under a mandatory 48-hour hold and released Feb. 6.
Nadia was diagnosed with ADHD in 2017 and is currently awaiting test results to see if she is on the autism spectrum. Nadia is on medication for various mental health issues and is in a class specifically for children with special needs.
The decision to Baker Act anybody is made by a licensed health care professional or law enforcement.
According to Duval County Schools, the decision in Nadia’s case was made by a third-party licensed mental health professional and law enforcement drove Nadia to the hospital. Falk said she was not made aware of the situation until after the decision was made to Baker Act her daughter.
An incident report from the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office said Nadia was destroying school property, attacking staff, out of control and running out of school.
Dr. Amit Vijapura, a board-certified psychiatrist, said although the school may have had grounds to involve law enforcement, it’s very uncommon to Baker Act a 6 year old.
“If it’s a pattern of behaviors, then they should Baker Act, but if it’s isolated then we have to allow the parent to make a judgment call and say he or she would be ok at home let me take them home,” Vijapura said.
Falk said she was never given that opportunity.
“That’s not acceptable. I deserve to know whether my daughter was being difficult that day or not. She’s helpless," Falk said. “I was assured they would take care of her and they had staff specifically trained to help her and this is the help I get — a psychiatric hospital."
Duval County Public Schools issued a statement to News4Jax explaining what they said happened with Nadia and refuted a previous media report that said Nadia was handcuffed and taken away.
“At no time, did the principal see the child placed in handcuffs,” DCPS wrote in a statement. “Once staff and the mental health therapist were able to deescalate the behavior, the child was escorted out of the school calmly holding hands with the principal and the police officer to the police officer’s vehicle. While we must always protect student privacy, I can tell you that Baker Acting a student is a medical intervention that is initiated upon evaluation by either a law enforcement officer or a licensed mental health professional based on specific criteria according to Florida Statute. In many cases, it is initiated by a mental health professional.”
DCPS said it reviewed the school’s handling of the situation and found it to be compliant both with law and the best interest of the student and all other students at the school.
“We have communicated with the parent and continue to be in communication with the parent regarding the educational setting and services that will best meet this student’s needs,” the statement reads. “The district’s obligation is to protect both the child in crisis as well as all of the other children in the school.”