Many parents have received a phone call from their child’s school with the news that their son or daughter was acting out in class. But one Jacksonville, Florida mother was shocked that not only was there no call but the school had sent her 6-year-old son to a mental institution. The unidentified child is being held for 72 hours under the Florida law.
The unidentified mother told “Action News Jax,” that she arrived at the Wayman Academy of the Arts to pick up her son after classes only to be told that the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office had been called because her child was punching walls and throwing objects. She was further shocked to learn that school administrators had invoked a Florida Law known as the Baker Act. This law allows any person to be involuntarily committed to a mental institution for up to 72 hours if they are considered a threat to themselves or others. The outraged mom responded, “To me, it’s just absurd. I don’t even know what to say. I mean, that’s just crazy. And then, the lady [at MHRC] said, ‘Well, he’s in there with other kids his age.”
The act does not have a minimum age requirement nor does the hospital need a parents’ permission to institutionalize a minor child. The mother, who does not want to be identified, went on to state, “I know that that’s behavior that’s not tolerated in the classroom. But there’s other ways you can handle that. Call a parent before you say, ‘Well, I’m fitting to Baker Act your child. I’m going to call police’ – on a 6-year-old,”
The school’s board chairman, Pastor Mark Griffin, issued the following statement to media:
Wayman Academy of the Arts strives daily to provide a safe, nurturing learning environment for all of our students. In that regard, we recently contacted JSO regarding an incident involving one of our students. While investigating that incident, the JSO officer noticed the behavior of another student and determined to restrain the child in accordance with the law commonly referred to as the Baker Act. In accordance with law, only physicians, judges, mental health professionals, and law enforcement officials can initiate such an action. As such, Wayman Academy of the Arts did not initiate this action, but we support the professional judgment of law enforcement officials when they determine that the safety of the child is in question, as well as the safety of other students and staff. For 18 years, we have worked with students and families from all walks of life to provide a top quality education, which is reflected in Wayman Academy being an “A” rated school. We will continue to work with this child and the parents to make sure the child receives the needed services and support to ensure the child’s academic and behavioral success. While we would like to provide more detailed information, we respect the privacy of the student and the family as we work toward an amicable conclusion to this issue.”
On the school’s website, its mission statement reads in part, “Our goal is to develop a school-parent whose vision and mission is developing and nurturing thinking, competent and yes, happy students prepared to successfully complete secondary education.”