A Florida mother wants answers after her 6-year-old daughter, who has special needs, was taken from school to a mental health facility.
Martina Falk could hardly hold back tears, as she watched police body camera footage of the moments on Feb. 4 before her 6-year-old daughter, Nadia King, was involuntarily committed to a mental health facility after a reported incident at Love Grove Elementary School in Jacksonville, Florida.
The school says Nadia was detained under the Baker Act for having an uncontrollable tantrum in class.
The Baker Act is a Florida law that enables families to provide emergency mental health services and temporary detention for people who are impaired because of their mental illness.
Nadia was diagnosed with ADHD in 2017 and is currently awaiting test results to see if she is on the autism spectrum. She is on medication for various mental health issues and is in a class specifically for children with special needs.
Falk says Nadia was traumatized by the incident. She says the 6-year-old was heavily sedated at the mental health facility then put under a mandatory 48-hour hold. Nadia was released from the facility Feb. 6.
Falk and her attorney claim Nadia’s civil rights were violated.
“She’s just not able to communicate that, due to her disability. She can only tell you bits and pieces. Mommy, they locked the door. They wouldn’t let me out. Mommy, they gave me a shot,” Falk said.
The body camera footage released Thursday by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office appears to show Nadia walking to a police cruiser, holding the hand of a female officer.
Once Nadia is in the car and the officer is in the driver’s seat, she talks to another officer standing outside, commenting on how calmly Nadia has been behaving.
“She’s been actually very pleasant,” the female officer said.
“I think it’s more of them just not wanting to deal with it,” said the other officer, apparently referring to school officials.
“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,” the first officer said.
Falk says the school did not call her before they used the Baker Act on Nadia, and the girl was taken to the mental health facility without letting her mother come to the school first.
“I want answers. 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,” Falk said.
The family’s attorney, Reganel Reeves, says Nadia will not be returning to the school and that the family is planning to file a civil lawsuit.
“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. “I think it’s quite clear that a lawsuit needs to be filed.”
Duval County Public Schools released a statement on the incident, saying a mental health counselor from Child Guidance, the district’s crisis response care provider, made the decision to invoke the Baker Act. It also noted the officers were not present when Nadia was allegedly in crisis.
“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,” the statement said.