Florida’s mental health law, the Baker Act, gives law enforcement the right to detain someone, restrain them in a police vehicle using force as needed and take them to a designated psychiatric facility. An individual can be detained against their will for up to 72 hours for evaluation.
For a Baker Act form to be signed, the person must be engaging in actions of a serious nature that might be harmful to themselves or others.
But should school children as young as 5, 6 or 7 years old be marched out of their schools, handcuffed, and strapped into a squad car driven by an adult they have never seen before and deposited into a psychiatric clinic to be examined by even more strangers?
Most Florida parents send their grade school kids off in the morning expecting their child will encounter reading, writing and arithmetic and have no idea these provision of the Baker Act even exist and don’t become aware of it until the day it happens to their child.
In January of 2014 a Flagler County father named Chance Hancock visited board members of the Bunnell Elementary School in Bunnell, Florida and spoke to them about an incident in which the school principal threatened to Baker Act his kindergarten-age son.
Mr. Hancock stated, “On Dec. 11, I was contacted by Mr. Dupont, principal of Bunnell Elementary school, that my kindergartner was having a tantrum. On the phone, I was able to talk with my student, my kindergartner, and calm him down. Shortly after the phone was transferred back, he got upset again. Mr. DuPont then told me, if I didn’t get there promptly, he would Baker Act my kindergartner. Of course by the time I got there, my kindergartner was calmed down, had full control of himself.”
The father said that his son never had tantrums at home and the dad was unsuccessful in his attempts to discuss the incident with the school board attorney and district student services.
Mr. Hancock felt strongly that the Baker Acting of children should be banned.
Katrina Townsend, the district’s director of student services, said it is not a principal’s choice to invoke the Baker Act nor should a principal threaten a parent in that manner.
In this case, the father saved the day and his young son was not involuntarily committed.
But a 7 year old girl was not so lucky.
In February of 2014 this Flagler County child was in class at Belle Terre Elementary school in Palm Coast, Florida.
According to the dean of students at the school, the little girl’s teacher had taken away the girl’s recess because she grabbed something she wanted from another student. Reportedly the girl then struck and kicked the teacher who took her into the dean’s office.
There she was said to have thrown a temper tantrum, disorganizing items in the office and tossing some thumb tacks on the floor. When made to pick them up, the girl apparently stabbed the dean in the knee with a tack causing a small cut.
The girl’s mother said her child had been previously labeled as “bi-polar”. Perhaps the little girl was already on a drug that caused her misbehavior in school.
WebMD, a source many parents check for quick medical advice says, “Diagnosing bipolar disorder in young children is difficult, because many of the symptoms are similar to those of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or conduct disorders — or even just normal, childhood behavior.”
Since there is no objective test to prove someone is “bi-polar” or has “ADHD”, psychiatrists are just guessing in the dark by tossing out these labels.
Psychiatrists also invented “oppositional defiant disorder” – a disorder in a child marked by defiant and disobedient behavior to authority figures. That would cover all other possible school behavior!
Or maybe this little girl was displaying “just normal, childhood behavior”.
Since it’s difficult to really know what’s going on with such a child, drugging her would cover all the possibilities, even though she could be just a normal kid.
Her mom, like many other mothers who have not looked into the real origins of psychiatry and the real effects of their treatments, trusted the system and felt she would be doing the best thing for her daughter by getting the help of a psychiatrist.
The child was Baker Acted right from the school and taken to Halifax Behavioral Service in Daytona Beach.
Katrina Townsend, the director of student services for this school district, apparently believes in the failed system of psychiatric labeling of mental disorders followed by doses of powerful psychoactive drugs.
Townsend said, “Sometimes with the younger students it is difficult to imagine putting them through a Baker Act, but a Baker Act is not a punishment. Our responsibility and our legal responsibility not just our ethical responsibility, is to keep a kid safe.”
So, what is a 7 year old bi-polar child given to keep them safe?
No real studies have been done on what these drugs do to young children.
The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry in their publication “Parents’ Medication Guide for Bipolar Disorder in Children & Adolescents” tells us:
“It is also possible that your child may be treated with a medication that is only FDA approved for adults with bipolar disorder. The evidence that these medications are safe and effective in children and adolescents is more limited than in adults. Prescribing medications for a use or for an age-group other than what they were approved for is called ‘off label’ use.”
Not exactly a reassuring message.
This brochure goes on to list Risperdal, Seroquel, Abilify, Lithium, and Zyprexa as some of the drugs your 5 to 7 year old might be given. Possible known side effects for these drugs include:
- Weight Gain
- Uncontrolled jerky movements in arms and legs (tardive dyskinesia or TD)
- Increased risk for Parkinsonian side effects (such as tremor and muscle stiffness)
- Increased risk for seizures
- Neuroleptic malignant syndrome (NMS)-life-threatening reaction to atypical antipsychotic medication requiring immediate medical attention and hospitalization. NMS causes muscular rigidity (typically, “lead pipe” rigidity), body temperatures over 104 degrees and delirium progressing to lethargy, stupor and coma.
Clearly, Baker Acting young children into psychiatric facilities and onto these drugs does not “keep a kid safe.” and it must be stopped.