Lawsuit Calls Out Palm Beach School District's Use Of Baker Act
The lawsuit claims the district has deprived children of educational opportunities and inflicted unnecessary trauma by forcing them into mental health centers over unthreatening behavioral incidents.
Several advocacy groups are suing the Palm Beach County school district over its practice of making hundreds of students undergo mental health examinations at psychiatric facilities each year.
The federal lawsuit filed Tuesday on behalf of disabled and minority children calls the district’s policy “excessive and illegal,” The Palm Beach Post reported.
Florida’s Baker Act gives police, judges and mental health professionals power to require people to undergo mental health exams if they appear to be suffering from a mental illness and could cause harm to themselves or others.
The lawsuit further states that the district's use of the law disproportionately affects students with disabilities and students of color.
The groups claim the school district has deprived hundreds of children of educational opportunities and inflicted unnecessary trauma by forcing them into mental health centers over unthreatening behavioral incidents.
The lawsuit also claims school officials violated state and federal law by involuntarily committing students in situations where the law doesn’t apply.
The lawsuit was filed by Disability Rights Florida, the NAACP and five students and their families. The suit seeks financial compensation for the families, for the district to halt any illegal use of the Baker Act and for better training for school staff.
In a statement, the district said its use of the Baker Act complied with state law and its schools had gone above and beyond to attend to students’ mental health needs.