For six weeks, elementary school officials in Florida forced a medically exempt young girl with Down Syndrome to wear a mask by tying it around her head with nylon string, according to the girl’s livid father.
Jeffrey Steele is the father of his 7-year-old daughter, Sofia Steele who has an enlarged tongue and breaths through her mouth. He told Fox News that learned about the forced masking on Oct 7 when she arrived home on the school bus with a saliva-soaked face mask tied tightly around her head.
However, due to his nonverbal daughter being medically exempt from the in-school masking, he had never sent her to school with a facial covering.
Steele explained that his daughter has an individualized education plan, known as an IEP and the school officials are required to discuss any changes to the plan with the parent. In this case, the school never reached out to him or his wife to mention or seek approval before strapping a mask to her head.
(Video Credit: Fox35)
Despite Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) banning school mask mandates, Ocean Breeze Elementary School in Indian Harbour Beach created its own face mask mandate in September.
“The student was given a medical mask exemption as soon as the mother made the request to school leadership,” said Brevard Public Schools Chief Strategic Communications Officer Russell a statement. “The school district is investigating and is in the process of gathering all the facts. BPS strives to ensure each student has the best educational experience possible and will continue in that effort.”
Steele took several days before he approached school officials about the disturbing situation because he needed to “take some time” to settle down. On Oct 12, he met with school officials who he said admitted that Sofia had been forced to wear a mask for about six weeks and that they used string or hair clips to keep it on her face.
Steele believes that school officials had been removing her mask before loading her up on the school bus but apparently had forgotten on Oct. 7.
“I was just flabbergasted,” Steele said.
After seeing “big behavior changes in Sofia at home,” the girls parents had previously reached out to the school. They were informed that she had been removing her shoes at school.
“We wanted to work with the school — we were working with her IEP — because we were getting notes all the time about Sofia’s behavior at school,” Steele said. “This was concerning to us because we were seeing the same sort of negative behavior at home, and we told them that. We still did not know there was a mask on her face at this time.”
Sofia will no longer attend Ocean Breeze Elementary School and Steele has sought legal representation.
“We don’t want her to be a spectacle,” the concerned father said.
The parents have set up a GiveSendGo account to cover the legal fees and “to end the tyranny of the Brevard County School Board.” To date, they have raised over $31,000.
Florida State Rep. Randy Fine (R) blames the school board members that voted for the masks stating, “There is a special place in hell for these people who have done this to this man’s daughter.”
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