Parents never quite know what might happen when they send their child off for a routine day of public schooling here in Florida.
Alishia Montelongo went off to classes at Wolfson High School in the Duval County School District in Jacksonville, Fl. on Monday, March 9th as usual. When she didn’t come out to the car after school, her mother and older sister went to the school office to look for her. Her family discovered that Alishia had been sent to a psychiatric hospital.
The school, for whatever reason, had failed to notify the family that Alishia while at school had supposedly threatened to commit suicide and that a mental health care professional had been called in who decided Alishia should be hospitalized immediately.
She was admitted to the Mental Health Resource Center where she was kept four days before returning home.
Why did Alishia end up in a psychiatric facility?
She made a comment to a friend in the school hall that was overheard, reported to school authorities and misinterpreted to mean that Alishia was seriously thinking of killing herself.
“We were talking and I was like, ‘I don’t care if I live or die’. They took it the wrong way, and the guy said, ‘Can you come in here?'” Alishia said.
Next stop the mental health facility. Alicia said she was never serious about hurting herself but it apparently took the psychiatric facility 4 days to figure this out.
Her sister reported that Alishia had been bullied for months at the school to the point where the family had filed a formal complaint against a particular girl who had physically harmed Alishia. Her sister has kept photos of the cut on Alisha’s cheek. The complaint had gone to the State Attorney’s Office and a Feb. hearing date was set but then the hearing was postponed with no new date set.
Alishia says one day on the bus she was slapped in the face, and papers were thrown at her.
Then a few weeks ago the other girl attacked her in the school. “She grabbed me by my hair and started beating me. She pushed me on the ground and started to kick me. I had a scratch right here on my face. It’s gone now,” Alishia told reporters.
Rather than having some common sense policy in place for a school official to immediately sort out what happened when one or more students fight and physically beat up other students, the procedure involves dragging things out in a pattern that mirrors the very slow justice system of adult criminal proceedings.
Alishia’s complaint of being bullied first has to be determined to fit the official definition.
According to Denise Marzullo, the President of Mental Health America of North East Florida, “these situations can be tough for the district to define.” “So you’ve got to figure out if it is bullying or if it’s assault and battery. Bullying is ongoing, repeated, over time with the intent to harm somebody. So they’ve got to do a full investigation before they categorize bullying. Right now, if you just look at the behaviors for the one incident, then that is possibly battery or a fight. They have to look into that as well.”
While the bureaucrats are trying to figure out if the victim was bullied or not and what to do, if anything, about the girl who attacked her, Alishia has to live with the advice of the psychiatric professionals who evaluated her case.
Although, she was active in ROTC and a member of the school chorus and likes the school and her friends there, her “physician” has placed her in something called “Hospital Homebound”, an alternative school program for students confined to their homes or the hospital.
In other words, the victim here is going to be alone at home studying and will miss all the social life and other outdoor activities of high school because the school administrators can’t maintain a safe environment in their school.
The official definition states: “A homebound or hospitalized student is a student who has a medically diagnosed physical or psychiatric condition which is acute or catastrophic in nature, or a chronic illness, or a repeated intermittent illness due to a persisting medical problem and that confines the student to home or hospital, and restricts activities for an extended period of time.”
Where is there any evidence Alishia has a “psychiatric condition which is acute or catastrophic in nature”?
Despite her Baker Act episode being based on a statement she made that was misinterpreted, the mental hospital facility started her on “therapy” which she will be continuing at home as part of “Hospital Homebound”
Though details are missing from the news reports, it’s highly probable that this therapy is a psychiatric drug.
How is the state of Florida responding to this unfortunate misapplication of the Baker Act?
Is the legislature considering new revisions to protect citizens from unnecessary use of the Baker Act?
No, they are considering a new law that would require principals to notify parents if their child is Baker Acted at school during the school day or if students are removed from school buses and field trips and sent off to a psychiatric facility.
Although it doesn’t address the real problem with unnecessary use of the Baker Act, at least same day notice from the school would allow parents to get into action immediately to get their child out of the psychiatric institution as fast as possible.