JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A family is speaking out after their 6-year-old son with special needs was removed from school, reportedly placed in handcuffs, and put in a mental health facility for three nights due to disruptive behavior.
It all happened under the 'Baker Act,' which allows for people to be involuntarily admitted for treatment, even children. The boy's parents and their attorney say the situation was handled poorly, and they are looking for a change.
Elizabeth Mcgill and Antonio Davis never imagined this could happen to their 6-year-old son.
“Jonah is a very sweet little boy, he has ADHD so he’s kinda hyperactive, and he does have some behavior issues, but at the end of the day he’s just a sweet, loving boy," said Elizabeth Mcgill, Jonah's mom.
Mcgill says she was told Jonah made threatening comments and lunged at a resource officer’s weapon while at the Seaside Charter school in San Jose last Thursday.
The next day, when Jonah's dad, Antonia Davis, went to pick the boy up, he was told Jonah would be taken to a behavioral facility under the Baker Act.
“He fell asleep in the cop car because he’s so little, he didn’t have a nap, with the handcuffs on," Mcgill said. "He cried every night. When we would talk to him on the phone he would say mama, when you getting me out mama. And we couldn't, we kept on saying 'we’re trying buddy.'”
Under Florida law, the Baker Act can be used for a person with a mental illness who has refused treatment and without treatment would suffer from neglect. Other options must be deemed inappropriate.
Their lawyer says these criteria were not met.
“The school continuously told my clients that there was only one option., that they child had to be involuntarily committed to this particular facility, which we do not believe was the most appropriate facility for the child," said Shannon Schott, a partner with Plata Schott Law.
Jonah spent three nights inside the facility, only talking with his parents via phone during his stay. They say Jonah is traumatized from the incident, and they want to see a change in how schools use the law.
“I’m just kinda afraid that its going to happen again and I don’t want that to happen, so we just want to get the word out there so that it doesn’t happen to Jonah but also to other kids," Mcgill said.
First Coast News reached out to the school for comment, and were told, "due to student privacy laws, Seaside is unable to comment on this matter."
A school spokesperson said law enforcement, not the school, enforces the Baker Act.
First Coast News has reached out to Jacksonville Sheriff's Office regarding this case and are waiting to hear back.