ST. AUGUSTINE, Fl -- A mother is upset to learn that her disabled child can be taken from his classroom to a mental health facility for evaluation, without her consent.
"They never contacted me before the incident," said Heather Monroe.
Thursday Monroe's eighth-grader left home for school and did not return home.
"It really hurts me.' she said, " I'm an emotional roller coaster because I don't know how to act without my child, that's the truth."
Her son Thomas attends Murray Middle in St. Augustine. He is an ESE student and has Asperger's Syndrome. She said he has never demonstrated destructive behavior, he has never been a threat to anyone.
On Thursday the 15-year-old boy was hearing voices and confided in his ESE teacher. The teacher took him to the guidance counselor, and the counselor called in a crisis response team.
Whatever Thomas told them was enough to have him sent to a mental health institution in Daytona for evaluation.
"He has never been Baker Acted before for any reason," Monroe said.
The Baker Act is a Florida Law that allows for involuntary examination. Monroe said has been very involved in her child's wellbeing and she should have been called before her son was committed.
"I feel it is my right to know what's going [on] with my children at all times,' she said," he has special needs and for them to take him out of the county from where he is from and all he has ever known, it appalls me."
She said she was notified two hours after the fact. On Friday, she was able to talk with him.
"He's scared," she said, " but he is okay. I got to talk to him for the first time this morning at 8:50."
Monroe is consulting an attorney. She believes her 14th amendment rights were violated.
"No consent. I don't think that it is fair," she said.
A single parent of three, Monroe wants her son to come home.
"I just want my son to come home," she said, "I just want him to be home with us, I am so incomplete."
Florida Privacy Laws (FERPA) prohibits the St. Johns County School board from discussing the case.
But a spokesperson said the proper protocol was followed.
This is the protocol:
A teacher, administrator or any school staff is notified that a student is in crisis. This could be self-reported by student or an incident involving the student as well.
The student in question meets with the guidance counselor so that he/she can assess the student.
If determined that the student is indeed in crisis then the Mobile Crisis Response Team (licensed mental health professionals) and/or the Sheriff’s Office is called to further the assessment of the student and determine if a Baker Act is in the student’s best interest.
The school district does not have the final say in whether a child should be committed and it happens more often than most would imagine.
These are the number of incidents in the St. Johns County School district alone:
For the 2016-2017 school year, it was 76 Baker Acts from schools and we were notified of another 162 from home. For this year the numbers are 29 from school and notification of 85 from home.