When Nadia King, 6, was removed from her school last week and taken to a mental health facility for an involuntary psychiatric evaluation, she was held under Florida’s Baker Act, according to an incident report from the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.
Her mother, Martina Falk, was contacted after the decision was made and Nadia was already on her way to the facility, Falk’s attorney said.
And that is not especially unusual. There were 36,078 involuntary examination of minors in Florida between July 2017 and June 2018, according to a report from the state’s Department of Children and Families.
But what exactly is the Baker Act and how can a child be held without the permission of her parent?
The Florida Mental Health Act was enacted by the state in 1971 and is usually referred to as the “Baker Act” for the sponsoring state representative of the bill, Maxine Baker, the Florida Department of Children and Families said in a Baker Act user reference guide.
Much of the legislation guarantees rights and protections for people with mental illnesses, but it does allow for involuntary examination in some cases including when a person with a mental illness is unable to determine whether an examination is necessary, when they are likely to neglect their own well-being and when they are likely to cause harm to themselves or others, according to the guide.
Nadia has been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, a mood disorder and is being tested for autism, Falk’s attorney said. Her mother said she is a special needs child who had “a temper tantrum at school. The incident report said she was “destroying school property, attacking staff, out of control, and running out of school.”
The decision to admit her under the Baker Act was made by a licensed mental health care professional employed by Child Guidance, a private, nonprofit community behavioral health care organization, the Duval County School District said.
The school staff followed the district’s procedure throughout the incident and when they notified the girl’s parent, the district said in a statement.
CNN has reached out to Child Guidance for comment.
When it comes to the Baker Act, there is little distinction made between the treatment of adults and children, Florida DCF said.
A major difference is that minors generally cannot legally consent to their own treatment and must instead get the consent of their parents, “except when parental consent is not required,” Florida DCF said.
The legislation does not stipulate if parental consent is required in situations where authorities believe the child is a danger to themselves or others, as a clinical social worker at Nadia’s school determined her to be.
Earlier this month, a Florida House panel approved a measure that would require schools to use de-escalation tactics before students can be transferred for involuntary examinations, CNN affiliate WJXT reported. State Rep. Jennifer Webb said the bill is in response to a growing concern that Florida’s public schools are not always using the Baker Act “responsibly and judiciously,” the station reported.
Rep. Mike Hill wants parental consent included in the bill moving forward, the station reported, but Rep. Ralph Massullo argued that in emergency situations the requirement would slow down authorities.
Correction: This story has been updated with the correct name for Nadia King’s mother.