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Mother wants answers after she says Duval school ordered 6-year-old to mental health facility

Florida Times-Union - 2/10/2020

Last week, a 6-year-old girl was removed from her elementary school and escorted to a behavioral health center in handcuffs, according to her mother.

Martina Falk said she was barred for a a few days from taking her daughter home.

Now Falk wants answers. On Monday, the mother of the little girl sat alongside her legal team at The Cochran Firm in San Marco. Falk and her attorney, Reganel Reeves, addressed members of the media regarding a situation with her child that she said took place on Feb. 4.

Falk's daughter -- who she said is diagnosed with ADHD and has a mood disorder -- was sent by Love Grove Elementary to River Point Behavioral Health Center under the state Baker Act law.

The state law provides emergency health services and temporary detention and psychiatric evaluation for people in need. But Falk said she's disappointed in the school for invoking the law for a six-year-old's temper tantrum.

"We want answers," Reeves said. "My client has not received a straight answer. We're getting bits and pieces"

I'm at The Cochran Firm in San Marco where a mother is asking for answers after her six-year-old daughter was placed under the Baker Act law by her elementary school and brought to a mental health facility. @jaxdotcom story coming soon.

-- Emily Bloch (@emdrums) February 10, 2020

Reeves said the firm isn't currently pursuing a lawsuit but is "keeping its options open." Currently, they're asking for the criteria for a child with or without special needs to be placed in a psychiatric facility, as well as for an explanation what led to the incident.

"We want to know what the conduct was. We want to know who made the decision to Baker Act her," he said. "We deserve answers."

Falk sat surrounded by members of The Cochran Firm, pushing through tears to speak.

"As a mother I feel helpless," she said. "I don't see the benefit of the Baker Act. It's not helping [children]. Locking them away, just to get rid of them."

Falk said her child had an "episode" at school, which led to the Baker Act.

"She had the meltdown at school she was pushing over chairs, screaming yelling and running away from the teacher," Falk said. "The police escorted her in handcuffs and refused to let her come home with me." Duval County and JSO deny that the child was handcuffed.

The incident took place on a Tuesday and Falk said she wasn't allowed to take her daughter home until Thursday.

"When I went to see her, she was so drugged up she couldn't even recognize me. She didn't know who I was. She had on a diaper. My daughter is fully potty trained," Falk said. "She kept saying 'mommy, I want to go home.' The hospital said she was so uncontrollable -- of course, she's six-years old."

In a statement released last week from Duval County Public Schools, the district said the young girl was escorted "calmy" out of the school, holding hands with Love Grove Elementary School Principal Tiffany Emanuel-Wright and a Jacksonville Sheriff's officer. JSO denies the use of handcuffs.

The Times-Union has requested any and all accompanying records regarding the child's transport to River Point Behavioral Health Center from JSO.

Falk pointed to problems with Duval County Public Schools. In a Facebook post, she said her child was "kicked out" of multiple schools because of her mental disability and that Love Grove Elementary School's staff should have handled the situation better before resorting to the Baker Act law.

"They [Love Grove] claim their staff is trained to handle children with mental disabilities," Falk said. "My daughter was diagnosed with a mental disability. She is not like other kids. She looks normal, but she is not normal ... I want my daughter to have an education just like everyone else. I'm hurting so bad right now."

According to Falk, her daughter was in a class for children with mental disabilities.

Duval County Public Schools has not responded to a request for comment as of publication time.

This story is developing.

Emily Bloch: (904) 359-4083


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