The Miami-Dade school district’s director of mental health and crisis management has been reassigned, pending the outcome of an ongoing investigation into various allegations.
Among them: that school counselors and police officers have been pressured to Baker Act students. Under the state’s mental health rule, students can be removed from school and taken by police officers for involuntary psychiatric examinations.
A spokesman for the district, Rolando Martin, confirmed in an email that Suzy Milano-Berrios has been removed as director of the department, where she oversaw crisis management, counseling and bullying prevention programs.
“The employee was reassigned while the District conducts [an] investigation,” Martin wrote.
It is routine for Miami-Dade school district employees to be reassigned and maintain their pay during internal investigations.
Milano did not respond to phone and email requests for comment.
She has been subject to a host of complaints from her own employees, who say Milano has harassed, intimidated and humiliated them, creating a hostile work environment.
The district confirmed the June 11 transfer after a Miami Herald report on the district’s large increase in Baker Act cases. Since 2006-07, the number of students transported for involuntary psychiatric examinations has doubled, to nearly 650 students in 2011-12.
Under the Baker Act, children and adults who are considered a danger to themselves or to others can be held for up to 72 hours at a mental health facility for psychiatric evaluation.
Milano is currently assigned to the attendance services office. No one has been named as acting director of the mental health and crisis management department, which falls under the supervision of Ava Goldman, administrative director of special education and educational services.
District administrators maintain the rise in Baker Act cases reflects more training for counselors and police officers and a greater emphasis in reporting and addressing students’ crises. The number of Baker Act cases has grown dramatically over the last decade in Miami-Dade County and Florida for people of all ages.
Still, the district is probing how it uses the law, and Milano is the second high-ranking employee to be reassigned.
In May, Miami-Dade School Police Chief Charles Hurley was temporarily moved from his post.