Pinellas student Baker Acted before parents contacted | News
Gulfport, Florida - A father's worry spills out at his kitchen table Monday morning, while he anxiously waited for his daughter's release from a mental health facility.
"I felt hopeless," he said, his voice cracking with emotion. "How can an officer take my kid to a place like this in a police car without calling her parents or anything?"
10 News is not identifying the man, in order to protect the identity of his daughter. She goes to Boca Ciega High School and is an honor student there. She spent the weekend at the Personal Enrichment Mental Health Services (PEMHS) center in Pinellas Park.
"It's not right, it's not right," says her father, pounding the table with his fist.
The chain of events started at school on Friday. The girl received a breakup text from her boyfriend. She was excused from class, because she wanted to talk with the school counselor. But when the counselor wasn't there, the school resource officer stepped in and he determined she was suicidal.
After speaking with his daughter, Dad is convinced the officer overreacted. "If the counselor's not in, what's wrong with getting on the phone and calling the parent?" he questions.
The Gulfport Police Department declined to speak with 10 News on camera for this story. However, Lieutenant Mary Farrand did explain in general terms the department's Baker Act policy.
Farrand says if someone threatens to hurt themselves or others, officers are obligated to act, so the person can be evaluated by professionals and get help.
The girl's father says if his daughter were truly distressed, he would have gotten her help through a private facility. But he never got the chance to be there for his daughter, because the phone call came too late.
"It's not right. It's not right," he says. "And if the state of Florida says that's right, they need to change it, because I don't want another parent to ever go through this in their life."
A school district spokesperson says if an SRO is handling a situation, school administrators would defer to that officer. But the parents of the girl say the school calls them if their daughter misses a class, so they question why they didn't get a call from the school in a situation as serious as this one.
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