Excessive Use Of The Baker Act On School Children In Miami-Dade County

The Baker Act, officially the Florida Mental Health Act, allows authorities to hold a person for 3 days (72 hours) evaluation if he or she is suspected of having serious mental health issues.

Miami-Dade County police apparently like to use the Baker Act on school children. A recent issue of the Miami Herald story bore the headline, Number of Miami-Dade students ‘Baker Acted’ on the rise.

At least 646 times this year — that’s an average of more than thee times every school day — Miami-Dade school police have handcuffed a student, put him or her in the back of a patrol car and driven to a mental health facility under the rules in Florida’s mental health law, the Baker Act.

This number is almost double what it was 5 years ago.

Nearly 2 students in every 1,000 have been Bakered Act in Miami-Dade this year. In Broward County, the 2nd largest district behind Miami-Dade, this figure is closer to .5 of a student per 1,000. Miami-Dade has Baker Acted 4 x more students than Broward.

This is not about crime. The number of crime incidents at Dade county Schools dropped 24 % from 2007 to 2011. The number of juvenile arrests in the schools has similarly fallen 35 %.

Baker Act numbers are heading in the opposite direction: In 2006-07, there were 427 calls to the police for mental health help, resulting in 322 students shuttled by school cops for exams. This year, there have been 1,042 calls and at least 646 students Baker Acted. So, calls for assistance have increased 144 percent and the Baker Act transports about 100 percent.

Use of the Baker Act is up statewide, but this dismal fact doesn’t excuse the increased use of this law on school children.

Statewide, the number of Baker Act exams — for everyone, not just children — rose 79 percent from 2000 to 2010. In Miami-Dade, the number more than tripled from 1999 to 2009 to about 16,700 exams

Whether this increased use represents over-use or not has not been resolved in the eyes of some experts. Miami-Dade County school officials are currently investigating the matter.