After reading last Sunday’s article by Allison Ross “When little ones break down in school,” I empathized with all of these young children being Baker Acted.
The system was implemented to be used when people are a danger to self or to others. Since when is a kindergartner a legitimate danger to himself or others? The article talked about how a kindergartner attempted to bite her teacher. How much danger was this teacher really in?
There is a piece missing in the system. The schools need funding to have a crisis management team, parents need to be called to pick up their children when they are no longer acting appropriately for a school setting and it shouldn’t be so easy to be screened into a mental health facility.
Baker Act should be last resort
The article “When little ones break down at school” was alarming. As a student in the social work program at Florida Atlantic University, I understand the need for the Baker Act. Yet something must be done to provide better preventive steps for these young children.
According to the article, “Last school year Palm Beach School police drove 256 times — an average of more than once every school day — to mental health facilities for examinations under the Florida’s Baker Act,” which seems outrageous. I understand that the teachers and administration staff cannot handle everything, but something must be done.
It was mentioned that some schools are getting kids connected with mental health services. Instead of just connecting students, why not bring these resources into the community or the schools themselves? This would help families learn adequate ways of dealing with stress, which then would help the children.
The Baker Act should not be seen as a preventative; it should be used as a last resort. Let’s work together, and continue the discussion to help these children.
Awareness can lead to policy change
Thank you for bringing attention to the rising use of the Baker Act in Palm Beach County schools. It has been notoriously overused, and the 256 times is a frightening statistic.
I can relate to the mothers feeling that the mental health system just wants to “get ‘em in, get ‘em out, get ‘em on their way.” As Nancy Verro pointed out, the Baker Act can be a starting point, but it is not a long-term solution. Children need continuing services, and these services need funding. Articles like this that bring attention to the mental health crisis are monumental in spreading awareness and bringing about policy change.
Bill before Congress seeks support for teachers
Thank you for the wonderfully insightful “When little ones break down at school.” The Student Support Act before Congress (H.R. 320) calls for precisely the kind of support these educators need. It would provide funding for more counselors, psychologists and social workers in every school. Our teachers are already stretched far too thin.
Screening tools like the five-minute Pediatric Symptom Checklist sound like a wonderful first step in assessing dysfunction or red flags that may otherwise go unnoticed. Many of the school shooters were described as loners, able to stay off the radar of those who may have been able to intervene. It is sad that it takes a national tragedy like Sandy Hook for us to address these long-overlooked issues.
West Palm Beach
Florida behind on mental health issues
Regarding “When little ones break down at school,” too little funding is available for mental illness treatment or prevention in schools. The mental health system in Florida leaves many without proper treatment and focuses on crisis stabilization.
Florida ranks 49th in funding of mental health and spends the majority of the money on hospitalization. How can we expect a child to develop into a productive member of society if the only system available is involuntary placement through the Baker Act and hospitalization? Many children are Baker Acted again and again because they don’t have the support and services needed once they are discharged from the hospital for a mental illness.
A bigger focus must be placed on preventive services and identifying children who need treatment. With continued lack of funding for mental health programs, the costs to taxpayers and the community will be heavier.
Proper support would reduce need for act
After reading “When little ones break down at school,” I agree with the parents’ view that more training for teachers would help them better assist children who are having behavior difficulties in class due to their mental illness, along with the use of behavior health specialist being put back into the schools. If the proper support mechanisms are put in place at the schools, the need for Baker Acting children would greatly diminish. I am not a fan of the Baker Act, but I do understand that sometimes it is unavoidable.
Schools must adjust to help children
After reading “When little ones break down at school,” I said out loud, “Is that really the best we can do?”
When deinstitutionalization took place 40 years ago, prisons and jails became the new asylums. As the influx of detainees with mental illnesses increased, prisons and local jails had to make adjustments. Is this any different in today’s schools?
School officials need to accept that more students have the perfect combination of stress and a genetic predisposition for developing a disorder. If we continue to waste time and money on policies focused on whom we should Baker Act instead of why Palm Beach County schools made 256 trips last year to mental hospitals, we will continue to spin our wheels.
Instead of putting a 72-hour hold on a 5-year-old for screaming or biting her teacher, let’s get inspired. Chances are she’s going back if we don’t make some changes. Research, collaboration, ingenuity, and creativity all sound much better than the Baker Act.
Screenings could be harmful
I had mixed feelings after reading Sonja Isger’s article “How would screening for kids at school work?”
While I can see the potential benefits of such screenings, I’m not sure that the benefits outweigh the consequences for some children. They could be labeled with a diagnosis that will follow them for the rest of their lives.
Children today are increasingly overdiagnosed and overmedicated for conditions that they may or may not actually have. I fear that mental health screenings for children in school would only increase the amount of overmedicated children in this country. In-school screenings could do more harm to our children than good.
Stigma hurts those who need help
While “How would screenings at school work?” did a thorough job of explaining the mental health crisis, it related it too much to the Sandy Hook incident. The article raised the point that screening children at schools would lead to children being mislabeled or stigmatized, which is partially true. However, this is only part of the issue.
As a society, we collectively remain uninformed and uneducated on a topic that is affecting most of us, because we have stigmatized the mental health field. We see mental illness as a negative, something that defines who a person is, rather than what a person has. If you were to break your arm or get sick tomorrow, would you not go see a doctor? Then why is it that when someone is showing signs of any mental illness that we automatically view it as something that should be ignored?
Screening our children in schools could help some receive help earlier, which could help them succeed in life.