This was not the first time the police had been called to the school about this child. The police officer at the scene decided that the child needed help instead of going home with his mother.
The Lakeland Ledger reports:
“He just felt that this young man needed some mental health service he wasn’t getting,” Carroll explained. “The Baker Act is a kind of a Band-Aid that allows us to have somebody introduced to the service providers that can actually do something for him.”
Mother Barbara Smith says that the police would not allow her to defuse the situation by seeing her son. She agreed to ride with the boy in the police car on route to the hospital. Since the incident neither the boy nor his sister, 9, have returned to school out of fear.
Raine Johns handles Baker Act cases for the Pinellas-Pasco Public Defender’s Office. The Baker Act is used to get a mental health exam for people who are in danger of harming themselves or others. It can be used against their will.
That’s not the purpose of the Baker Act at all,” said Johns, who is not involved in the case. “Stepping on somebody’s foot doesn’t rise to the level of substantial bodily harm.”
In the Pinellas school system this year the police have evoked the Baker Act 83 times.
Carroll believes that the officers did the right thing for this child.
“The child got interviewed by mental health professionals,” he said. “He didn’t get arrested. There’s no criminal charges against him.”
The boy’s parents do not follow that belief. Richard Smith and his wife are not sure of their next step however they plan to speak to a lawyer.