JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Police body camera footage released Thursday by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office shows the moments before a 6-year-old girl was involuntarily committed to a mental health facility after an episode at Love Grove Elementary School.
Martina Falk, the young girl’s mother, told News4Jax on Monday that her daughter is traumatized. Falk is demanding answers from Duval County Public Schools and the mental health facility where the girl was committed.
“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."
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 body camera footage released from the Sheriff’s Office appears to show Nadia, the 6-year-old, walking to a police cruiser, holding the hand of a female officer. The female officer is heard telling Nadia that she’s not going to jail. The young girl is seen getting into a police cruiser.
Several minutes of footage are redacted, and certain parts of the video are inaudible.
- Female officer: “You going to be good? You’re not going to throw nothing around like you did in there, are you? You going to be nice to me like you’re being?
- Nadia: “Yeah.”
- Female officer: “Good deal.”
The body camera footage also shows the interaction between the female officer and the child as they ride in the police cruiser. Nadia asks if the female officer has anything to eat. The female officer is heard interacting with a male officer.
The female officer is heard saying, “I think they may have agitated her a little bit.”
- Female officer: “Follow me just in case. But, she hasn’t -- she’s actually been very pleasant. Right? Very pleasant. I think they’re pushing the button, because when I got there she’s been so cooperative with me and talking, sat down, did everything.”
- Male officer: “Yeah. You poke the bear one too many times, it’s going to scratch you.”
- Female officer: “Yeah. Because they said this is the fourth out of five days she’s been acting like this.”
Based on what the officers were heard saying, News4Jax crime and safety expert Ken Jefferson said he doesn’t feel Nadia should have been Baker Acted.
“Everything the officer is saying becomes public record. So, if she is ever subpoenaed, she has to testify that when she got there the child was calm; she didn’t seem to be a threat to herself or anyone else," Jefferson said.
Child’s mother & family attorney address the media
After the footage was released to the public on Thursday, Falk and her attorney, Reganel Reeves, sat down together and spoke to the news media.
“She had a tantrum. 6-year-olds have tantrums. 6-year-olds with special needs have tantrums. The school knew about her tantrums,” Reeves said. “The police officer had no independent basis to take this child for Baker Act.”
Reeves continued, “What medical basis did they have to give this child anti-psychotic medicines? That’s what we need to know.”
When asked about what happened, Falk said her daughter is unable to give a complete account of what happened.
“She’s just not able to communicate that due to her disability. She can only tell you bits and pieces," Falk said.
The attorney said the child will not be returning to the school.
“I want answers," Falk said. "An apology would be nice, but it isn’t going to fix the pain that I feel watching that video knowing that my daughter may have been provoked because their staff were irritated or maybe had a bad day and didn’t want to deal with a special needs child. It’s hurtful.”
Originally, the mother said she wasn’t looking to file a lawsuit, but when her attorney was asked the question Thursday, Reeves responded:
“I think it’s quite clear that a lawsuit needs to be filed."
He continued, “We shouldn’t have to file. They should just get on the phone and say, ‘Hey. Yeah. We messed up. How can we rectify this?’”
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. That statement can be viewed here.
Following the release of the body camera video, News4Jax requested an additional comment from DCPS. The district issued the following statement:
"We were clear in our earliest public statements that the student walked calmly out with the principal and the officer to the police car. Media reports on the video confirm this and also confirm that handcuffs were not used as was originally alleged.
"With regard to the statements made on the video, note that the officers in the video were not present during the events which motivated the school to call Child Guidance, our crisis response care provider. The police officers were also not present when Child Guidance was intervening with the student. It was the mental health counselor from Child Guidance, not the police officer or school personnel, who made the Baker Act decision.
"Our procedure is to call Child Guidance when a student’s crisis is not de-escalating and the student is at risk of self-harm or harming others. Our staff followed that procedure.
"As we stated previously, 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. The judgement to Baker Act rested completely with the mental health professional.
“We cannot speak on behalf of Child Guidance regarding decision making in this matter, but we have already requested a leadership meeting with Child Guidance to review this situation.”