A father in Florida has accused school officials of forcing his daughter with Down syndrome to wear a mask by tying it to the seven-year-old girl’s head.
Jeffrey Steele says that he was shocked when on October 7 his daughter Sophia stepped off the school bus in Indian Harbor with a medical mask tied tightly to her face with a cord that wrapped around her head.
Steele had assumed that Sophia, who is nonverbal and has an enlarged tongue, would be granted a medical exemption, but that the school had been forcing her to wear the mask for six weeks without his knowledge.
‘I was just flabbergasted,’ Steele told Fox News.
Sophia Steele, seven, was forced by teachers to wear a mask that was tied to her head, her father says. She has Down syndrome and is nonverbal, and he believed she was exempt
Jeffrey Steele says that he was shocked when on October 7 his daughter Sophia stepped off the school bus in Indian Harbor with a medical mask tied tightly to her face
Father Jeffrey Steele says he was ‘flabbergasted’ and furious when he learned that staff had been tying the mask on his daughter for six weeks
Staff at Ocean Breeze Elementary School, part of Brevard County Schools, imposed a mask mandate on students in defiance of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ controversial order banning mask requirements.
Steele was aware of the school’s mask mandate, but said that he assumed Sophia was automatically medically exempt.
The girl is enrolled in an individual education plan (IEP) and educators are supposed to inform parents of any changes to the child’s learning plan, Steele said.
In a statement, Brevard County Schools said: ‘The student was given a medical mask exemption as soon as the mother made the request to school leadership.’
‘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,’ the statement added.
Sophia is enrolled in an individual education plan (IEP) and educators are supposed to inform parents of any changes to the child’s learning plan, Steele said
The bizarre case drew attention from elected officials, with State Representative Randy Fine tearing into Brevard County’s mask mandate at a press conference this week.
‘There’s a special place in hell for people who did this to that man’s daughter,’ said Fine, a Republican from Palm Bay, according to WOFL.
Late Friday afternoon, Brevard Public Schools announced a change to the emergency face mask mandate.
Superintendent Dr. Mark Mullins said he would transition the mask mandate from having a medical exemption to having a parental opt-out, after the daily new COVID case rate dropped to 50 per 1000,000.
DeSantis has waged a legal battle with local school districts in Florida over mask mandates. He has outlawed the mandates, but many districts have defied them and tied up his order in court.
DeSantis and state education officials responded by cutting salaries paid to school board members in Florida who voted to require masks for students.
‘There’s a special place in hell for people who did this to that man’s daughter,’ said state Rep. Fine, a Republican from Palm Bay
About a dozen school boards in Florida, representing more than half the state’s students, have voted to defy the state ban on mask mandates despite the DeSantis decision to withhold some of their funding.
DeSantis favors allowing parents to decide whether their children wear face coverings and is in the midst of court battles over this broader issue.
In Alachua County, the pay reductions so far for four school board members who voted for the mask mandate amounted to $27,000.
President Joe Biden’s administration has been stepping in to make up the pay cuts by infusing federal grants into the affected districts.
Alachua County school Superintendent Carlee Simon said in a news release last month the district has received $148,000 through a U.S. Department of Education program.
‘With these grants, we’re making sure schools and communities across the country that are committed to safely returning to in-person learning know that we have their backs,’ Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said in a statement.