The government of Florida is downplaying the negative effect of the Baker Act in students with special needs.
The Baker Act of Florida
The Baker Act, also known as the Florida Mental Health Act of 1971, gives authority to law enforcement officers to forcefully admit anyone, especially minors suspected with a mental illness that is assessed to be dangerous to themselves or to others.
The law enforcement officers assess the threat an individual exhibits and if it qualifies to the scope of the Baker Act. This act has been effective in saving children and adults with suicidal and aggressive tendencies.
Unfortunately, there is an ongoing downside in the policy that poses a concern for many parents of special needs students in Florida. Multiple instances that law enforcers directly resort to the provisions of the act instead of practicing proper interventions, especially on less threatening cases.
Parents of students with special needs are getting worried that on every occasion their child even shows the slightest form of tantrums, which is pretty normal in children, a law enforcer will swoop down and bring them into a mental holding facility. These cases already did happen and with parents held blinded by a lack of notice from law enforcers that took their children.
An act to protect the welfare of students in special needs
As grant to the rising concern of parents of children with special needs, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act was enacted to put an added criteria in the existing Baker Act. The provisions of this new safety act prohibit the forceful detention of students with disabilities to any mental holding facility, as long as there is a living family member, guardian, or friend that can effectively intervene during an aggressive scenario.
A psychologist and a Baker Act lawyer, Stephen Talmadge, agrees with the new provisions, citing that in some cases, these children are just undergoing temper tantrums. There are also underlying cases such as autism that can be easily triggered by intense noise and irritating behavior in their surroundings, which causes their outbursts.
Lawyers also discovered that the Baker Act is being used to scare and discipline students and parents, which is mostly not the purpose of the act. Some use it to threaten parents on immediately picking up their children at school during a tantrum or else, and school officials will send their child to mental control.