Attorney intends to file lawsuit after Jacksonville child involuntarily committed

Duval County School Board, Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, River Point Behavioral Health put on notice

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – An attorney has sent letters to the Duval County School Board and the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, stating that he intends to file a lawsuit after a child was escorted by police from an elementary school to a mental health facility.

In addition, the letter puts River Point Behavioral Health, the facility where 6-year-old Nadia King was taken, on notice. She was involuntarily committed and held at the facility for more than 48 hours.

According to an incident report from the Sheriff’s Office, a clinical social worker told police Nadia was a “threat to herself and others” and that she was “destroying school property, attacking staff, out of control and running out of school.”

Video captured by police body camera showed the child as she was escorted from the school in a police cruiser.

RELATED: Body cam captures moments with police before Jacksonville girl was involuntarily committed

Duval County Schools has a memorandum of understanding with Child Guidance Center Inc. to operate the mobile response unit tasked with assessing students in crisis. The accredited non-profit made the decision to involuntarily commit Nadia without her parents’ permission under the Baker Act.

On Wednesday, Theresa Rulien, the president and CEO of Child Guidance Center, spoke with News4Jax. She could not speak specifically about Nadia’s case, but she said the company stands behind its policies.

READ: CEO of mental health center stands behind policies after Jacksonville girl involuntarily committed

Reganel Reeves with the Cochran Firm is representing Nadia and her mother.

“This is the state government putting kids away, and there needs to be some accountability in government when they have the power and authority to do this to our children. There should never be a 6-year-old child put in the back of a police car at all,” Reeves said. “There should be a high standard, and we have to demand that if the government is going to do that they have to have some transparency.”

In the body camera footage, the officer can be heard talking about seemingly talking about Nadia to another officer, “She is fine. There is nothing wrong with her.”

Reeves went on to say, “The cop was very sweet and gracious, and she did an exceptional job trying to make sure Nadia was comfortable as she transported her, but as a cop wearing the color of the law, she has to protect Nadia‘s constitutional rights. If the cop did not believe any of the statements that were made to her, then she did not have the legal authority to detain Nadia. She had no probable cause, because she stated out of her mouth that she didn’t believe what the people were telling her inside of the school.”

In the body camera footage, the officer can be heard telling an officer, “She is fine. There is nothing wrong with her.”

Rulien told News4Jax that under state law and their own local polices, a licensed mental health therapist doesn’t need parental permission to decide whether a child needs to be Baker Acted.

“It would be dangerous to allow a teacher or a parent of a student to say, ‘This isn’t usual. Let me put them in my car and take them home,’” Rulien said.

Nadia’s attorney disagrees.

“I think parental consent is distinguishable from parental notification. Notify the parent. Give the parent an opportunity to intervene,” he said. “It is common sense. Call the parents, not the cops.”

After learning of the claims, News4Jax requested comment from the District, the Sheriff’s Office and River Point. The request was not immediately returned Friday evening from the Sheriff’s Office and River Point.

A spokesperson for the District sent News4Jax the following statement:

"...student privacy prevents me from addressing any student’s individual situation. But just to reiterate: Our standard for reaching out to third party, licensed mental health support is a student who presents a threat to self or others at school.

"Other facts:

"1. School district personnel did not make the decision to admit this student under the Baker Act. By law, those decisions are made by certain licensed health care professionals or by law enforcement. In this case, the decision was made by a third party licensed mental health professional employed by Child Guidance. Child Guidance is the district’s contracted provider for crisis response mental health services. The licensed mental health counselor from that firm made the Baker Act decision.

"2. 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. Our staff followed that procedure.

"3. The parent was notified immediately, as required by law and the school district’s procedure, when Child Guidance made the decision to transport the student to mental health care under the Baker Act.

“4. While the child was in the care of the school, the child was not handcuffed, as originally alleged. Additionally, the child was not handcuffed upon entering the police car. Media reports about police body camera video confirm this. Once the licensed mental health professional determined that the student was being Baker Acted, she was calmly walked to the police car hand-in-hand with the school principal and then transitioned to the police officer.”

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