Nearly 5,000 Florida students were Baker Acted in school in 2021 according to a new report released by the state.
The report is the first of its kind.
A state law passed last year created a requirement for districts to report the number of Baker acts that occur on school grounds, buses and at school-sponsored events.
It also requires districts to report the number of individual Baker Acted students.
This is our first look at how often this drastic measure is being used in Florida schools.
We spoke with Franchon Baker-Bellamy in May.
Her daughter had recently been removed from school, put in the back of a police cruiser in handcuffs and taken to a mental health facility after telling a school official she was having suicidal thoughts.
“We will never forget him. It’s traumatic, you know, that your child is locked up for 72 hours and you can’t get to them,” Baker-Bellamy said.
The Baker Act allows law enforcement to involuntarily commit a person to a mental health facility for up to 72 hours if they are deemed to pose an immediate threat to themselves or others.
Franchon’s daughter is not alone.
A new state report shows more than 5,000 Baker Acts were performed in Florida schools on more than 4,800 individual students in 2021 alone.
In northeast Florida, Duval schools saw a total of 137 Baker Acts, St. Johns 46, Clay 42 and Nassau 30.
All but Nassau had a lower Baker Act rate than the state.
But Melanie Brown-Woofter of the Florida Behavioral Health Association said that because this is the first report of its kind, it’s hard to glean a lot of data, but the statistics will be invaluable in the future.
“So that we can make improvements to the data-driven care system,” Brown-Woofter said.
Andrew Spar, president of the Florida Education Association, agreed that it’s not possible to assess the state’s performance based on a single year’s data, but there are other statistics that show that the state could do more to address student mental health. .
“One school counselor for seven or eight hundred students. The national recommendation is one in 300,” Spar said.
Education and mental health professionals want even more detailed data in the future, such as a grade breakdown of Baker Acted students.
The goal is to ensure that the Baker Act is used as an option of last resort, as originally intended.
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