A 6-year-old with ADHD was pulled out of school and taken to a psychiatric ward without her mother knowing
- Six-year-old Nadia King was taken to a mental health facility and involuntarily examined, without her mother's consent.
- She was pulled out of school for her "out of control behavior," according to a police report.
- This case is stirring up outrage about overuse of the Baker Act, a Florida law which allows school officials or mental health personnel to admit children for involuntary psychiatric evaluations.
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A six-year-old girl was pulled out of class, taken to a psychiatric evaluation, and was sedated for 48 hours without her mother's consent after teachers said the child was "out of control."
Nadia King, a student at Love Grove Elementary School in Jacksonville, Florida, was reported to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office on February 4 for, according to teachers, "destroying school property, attacking staff, out of control, and running out of school," the Florida Times-Union reported.
King, who had previously been diagnosed with ADHD and was being tested for autism, was taken to a psychiatric evaluation against her will after teachers consulted a social worker at the non-profit group Child Guidance.
Nadia's mother, Martina Falk, was only contacted once the child was on her way to the facility. Falk told the Washington Post she now finds it difficult to be around doctors.
The involuntary detainment was allowed under Florida's Baker Act, a law that allows people with mental illnesses to be involuntarily examined and held against their will for up to 72 hours if they meet certain criteria.
It has sparked outrage, particularly after one officer described Nadia as "very pleasant," and another officer said: "I think it's more just them not knowing how to deal with it."
Florida's Baker Act allows kids to be committed involuntary for a mental health concern
In Florida, according to a report from the state's Department of Children and Families, there were at least 36,078 involuntary examinations of minors between July 2017 and June 2018. That number has more than doubled in the last 15 years, causing some to wonder if the Baker Act is being overused on children.
The Florida Mental Health Act, nicknamed the Baker Act for Maxine Baker, the state representative who sponsored the bill, was first passed in 1971. It was originally designed to enable people to provide emergency mental health services to those in need of them, but it also allows for licensed mental health professionals and school officials to get someone who is seen as a danger to themselves or others put in a mental health facility for 72 hours.
The Florida Department of Children and Families told CNN that little distinction is made between the treatment of adults and children when it comes to the Baker Act. One of the only differences in protocol is that minors cannot consent to their treatment, and parents consent must be obtained. "Except when parental consent is not required," the Florida DCF said.
The legislation doesn't specify when parental consent is or isn't required, and as such Nadia King's situation may likely be legal.
The rates of kids being committed is soaring in tandem with the rate of mental health diagnoses
Parents have spoken out against using the act instead of focusing on the mental health diagnosis at the root of the child's behavior — particularly amid rising rates of mental health diagnoses among children nationwide.
"They want to use (the) Baker Act for any behavioral problem — anything that they don't like," one mother told The News-Press in a special report on the rise of kids getting "Baker-Acted".
"If you have any kind of outburst, if you have any kind of emotion whatsoever and you are not just an order-following automaton, they will Baker Act you."
Other states have similar laws
This isn't just a problem for Florida.
Other states also have similar involuntary commitment acts. In California, people can be 5150-ed, which means that they can be held without their consent for a maximum of 72 hours. Pennsylvanian law has a section 302 law, which permits people being committed for five days involuntarily. In Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky, there is Casey's Law, which allows people to petition the court to get their loved ones committed.
Because of the outrage Nadia's story inspired, the Baker Act is under new scrutiny. A new proposal approved by a Florida House panel would require schools to attempt to de-escalate situations before sending students for psychiatric examinations.
The bill's sponsor, Representative Jennifer Webb, said the bill is her way of "helping ensure that we are saving the Baker Act for those kids who truly need it and we are not Baker Acting children who would be better addressed by other means."
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