The number of Miami-Dade students taken by school police from campus for an involuntary psychiatric exam has almost exactly doubled in the past five years, reports the Miami Herald. At least 646 times this year, or three 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. The rise has come at a time when school crime statistics and juvenile arrests are down markedly.
Critics, including some inside the district, say the schools may be overusing the Baker Act, which allows individuals to be held for evaluation up to 72 hours. District administrators say the numbers are reflection of schoolteachers, counselors and police becoming more alert and sensitive to the emotional problems of students at a time when kids face more pressure than ever. District officials also point out that the use of the Baker Act in society at large has risen significantly. Nonetheless, Miami-Dade school officials are investigating concerns about the Baker Act's possible overuse.