Alaska State Police transported the Colony High School principal to a hospital for involuntary psychiatric evaluation last week on an invalid court order, authorities said this week.
Mary Fulp broadcast the meeting live on Facebook. In the video, which has now been viewed more than 45,000 times, she said the evaluation was ordered because of her fervent Christian beliefs.
Commissioner James Cockrell, who oversees the Department of Public Safety, said in a statement Tuesday that the incident is under investigation and that officials plan to review policies and procedures.
“Based on the limited information we have been able to obtain about this incident from the Alaska court system, it appears that we erred in transporting the adult female for evaluation,” he said. “Our staff should have taken additional steps to verify the information submitted by the whistleblower and the validity of the court order.”
Fulp began this school year as principal of Colony High School after serving as principal of Colony Middle School next door for 15 years. She was named the 2022 Alaska Principal of the Year by the National Association of Secondary School Principals.
The Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District sent a message to families at the high school last week after the video surfaced. Superintendent Randy Trani said officials were aware and monitoring the situation.
A spokeswoman for the school district did not return messages Tuesday and Wednesday, but declined to comment Monday on Fulp’s employment status.
The Constitution prohibits school officials from expressing religion in schools.
In a Facebook post on the day of the incident, Jan. 18, Fulp said he wasn’t at work that day because his “supervisor needed some time to process what had unfolded over the course of a very short time.” an apparent reference to a religious revelation he described in a four-hour video posted the previous weekend. Fulp also said that he would have been in school “if he hadn’t been operating with such grace and compassion for this new level of testimony that just hit the floodgates over the weekend.”
The encounter involving the invalid warrant occurred on the second police visit to Fulp’s home in one day.
Police officers had been called to Fulp’s home on January 18 by someone requesting a welfare check because she was not answering the door and “he was concerned about her mental health,” spokesman Austin McDaniel said in a statement. send by email.
A police officer visited Fulp’s home at 11:45 am and spoke to her and the man who had requested the welfare check, McDaniel wrote. The officer left about 25 minutes later and determined that Fulp did not show significant signs of a mental health problem that could cause harm to herself or others, the conditions required to initiate an involuntary psychiatric commitment.
Fulp described the first encounter in a separate Facebook post, saying her family had called her for a psychiatric evaluation.
Just before 5 p.m., a second person called cops via 911 “saying they had a signed order from a judge that (Fulp) would be involuntarily committed to the nearest mental health assessment center,” McDaniel wrote. . The two people who contacted the soldiers that day about Fulp knew her, she said in an interview.
Soldiers Sgt. Matthew Sidders and Deputy Jacob Switzer went to the home of the person he called and were shown a document that the caller said was signed by a judge, McDaniel said. He requested that Fulp be transported to the hospital for involuntary psychiatric evaluation, McDaniel said.
The order “appeared to be signed by a judge and appeared to be valid,” he said. The officers did not take the warrant or copy it, McDaniel said. The caller has since refused to provide the warrant to Department of Public Safety officials, who are trying to obtain it for their ongoing investigation, McDaniel said. He declined to say if the documents were forged or if the police were investigating criminal activity on behalf of the person he called.
State law allows an interested party to petition the court for an involuntary mental health commitment if they believe someone is “severely disabled” as a result of mental illness or is likely to cause serious harm to themselves or others. If there is probable cause, a judge can issue an involuntary commitment order and the person in question is taken to a medical facility for examination or treatment.
The court system directly provides law enforcement with a copy of the order, the petition and a request for transportation when an order is issued for someone who is not already in a facility or in custody, said Rebecca Koford, a spokeswoman for the court system. . Petitioners are not asked to arrange transportation themselves, she said.
Law enforcement officials may also initiate procedures to test a person if they believe they are a danger to themselves or others. That’s what happened at a Mat-Su school last year when soldiers ordered the involuntary commitment of a special needs elementary student from Wasilla, against the wishes of the boy’s parents, who were there in a encounter at the Tanaina primary school involving a soldier. spraying the student.
Last week, soldiers went to Fulp’s residence to inform her about the order and take her to the Mat-Su Regional Medical Center. They acknowledged that she “did not display a serious mental health disability and that she was not likely to cause serious harm to herself or others,” McDaniel said.
In her live stream, Fulp described how she was “taken to the hospital for claiming that Jesus is King and claiming that I am with the Martin Luther King civil rights movement.” She complied with the soldiers’ request and the approximately 20-minute video ended when they arrived at the hospital around 5:45 p.m. Fulp could be heard speaking during the ride.
Soldiers escorted Fulp to the hospital, and McDaniel said they did not provide any documentation or orders to the center. The court system doesn’t directly send involuntary commitment orders or documents to hospitals because it’s not always clear which hospital someone will be taken to, Koford said. Documentation for such orders is sent to the Alaska Psychiatric Institute and a coordinator at the state Department of Health and Human Services, she said. In situations involving police transport, officers are likely to issue orders to hospital staff, Koford said.
McDaniel said he did not know how long Fulp was held at the hospital. She did not respond to messages left by a reporter.
A citizen contacted the department of public safety Friday to report that the warrant presented to soldiers for Fulp’s commitment may not have been valid, McDaniel said. Public Safety Commissioner Cockrell ordered a review of the incident that day.
The department requested copies of the documents from the court so it could determine if they were valid, but McDaniel said the requests were denied. Involuntary commitment orders are confidential.
On Tuesday, the court system issued a statement saying there was no valid court order for Fulp’s commitment.
“The court did not issue any order to detain Ms. Fulp, detain her or hospitalize her for any reason,” Koford said. “The law enforcement actions in this case were not undertaken or carried out pursuant to or as a result of a court order.”
Koford said he could not comment on whether a commitment request from Fulp had ever been filed with the court or if such an order had been denied.
cockrell has ordered an internal review of the policies and procedures related to involuntary commitments. McDaniel said he could not reveal whether Switzer or Sidders had violated department policy.
“We take full responsibility for this and want to reassure the public that we are taking the necessary steps to ensure that incidents like this never happen again,” Cockrell said in the statement. “This type of situation is unacceptable, and you have my commitment that we will do better.”
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