Jacksonville 6-year-old involuntarily committed to mental hospital

A Jacksonville mother says she’s outraged that her 6-year-old son was involuntarily committed to a mental hospital for 72 hours under Florida’s Baker Act.

An administrator at Wayman Academy of the Arts told Action News Jax that the boy was throwing book bags and punching walls when JSO took him to the Mental Health Resource Center.

“To me, it’s just absurd. I don’t even know what to say,” said the boy’s mother, who Action News Jax has agreed not to identify to protect her son.

She said her son is too young to be locked up in a mental hospital, but the law disagrees.

“I mean, that’s just crazy. And then, the lady [at MHRC] said, ‘Well, he’s in there with other kids his age.’ And I’m like, really?”

The Baker Act allows a person to be involuntarily committed if they are at risk of hurting themselves or others.

There is no minimum age requirement.

Mental hospitals don’t have to get parental consent, either; it’s an involuntary commitment.

The boy’s mother says she wishes the school had handled it differently.

“I know that that’s behavior that’s not tolerated in the classroom. But there’s other ways you can handle that. Call a parent before you say, ‘Well, I’m fitting to Baker Act your child. I’m going to call police’ – on a 6-year-old,” she said.

The school’s board chairman, Pastor Mark Griffin, emailed Action News Jax the following statement:

Wayman Academy of the Arts strives daily to provide a safe, nurturing learning environment for all of our students.  In that regard, we recently contacted JSO regarding an incident involving one of our students.  While investigating that incident, the JSO officer noticed the behavior of another student, and determined to restrain the child in accordance with the law commonly referred to as the Baker Act.  In accordance with law, only physicians, judges, mental health professionals and law enforcement officials can initiate such an action.  As such, Wayman Academy of the Arts did not initiate this action, but we support the professional judgement of law enforcement officials when they determine that the safety of the child is in question, as well as the safety of other students and staff.

For 18 years, we have worked with students and families from all walks of life to provide a top quality education, which is reflected in Wayman Academy being an "A" rated school.  We will continue to work with this child and the parents to make sure the child receives the needed services and support to ensure the child's academic and behavioral success.  While we would like to provide more detailed information, we respect the privacy of the student and the family as we work toward an amicable conclusion to this issue."