JACKSONVILLE — The story of a 6-year-old girl who was taken from her Duval County school and placed under the Baker Act this month has gained national attention — and now a video of the incident is raising questions about why it happened.
Nadia King was taken from her special-needs class at Love Grove Elementary on Feb. 4, as first reported by the Jacksonville Times-Union. She is one of thousands of kids in Florida who have found themselves in the back of a cop car because of the Baker Act, which allows anyone deemed a threat to themselves or others to be involuntarily committed to a mental health hospital.
Duval school district officials told the Times-Union a “third-party mental health professional” decided to use the Baker Act on the girl. A report from the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office said she was “destroying school property, attacking staff, out of control, and running out of school.”
But in a video obtained and reported by the Times-Union, the girl can be heard talking calmly to a police officer from the back of a parked squad car. The officer in the driver’s seat talks with another officer standing outside the car, both of them questioning why the school allowed the girl to be placed under the Baker Act.
“I don’t see her acting like they said,” the officer inside the car says, referring to workers at the school. “She’s been actually very pleasant. Very pleasant."
The other officer responds: “I think it’s more of them just not knowing how to deal with it." And the cop inside the car says, “I think they’re pushing the buttons, because when I got there, she’s been so cooperative with me."
Attorneys for the girl’s mother say that the student’s calm demeanor in the video proves she didn’t need to be removed from school under the Baker Act. "She must’ve been calm enough that her mother should be able to pick her up,” attorney Reganel Reeves of the Cochran Firm told the Times-Union. “There were alternatives in this situation.”
The case in Jacksonville is a zoomed-in look at something that happens every day, at schools throughout the state. More children than ever are falling under the Baker Act, often while at school, a December investigation by the Tampa Bay Times found.
And there are glaring weaknesses in the system behind the law, including lack of parental consent, students being wrongly committed and facilities that put them in harm’s way.
Florida lawmakers have taken up the issue in this year’s legislative session. But it remains to be seen what changes, if any, will be made.