A Florida school allegedly forced a little girl with Down Syndrome to wear a mask by tying it to her head for six weeks, the angry dad of 7-year old Sofia Steele claims. Jeffrey Steele, the father of nonverbal Sofia Steele told Fox News that he only found out about the practice when his daughter got off the school bus on October 7 with a mask strapped to her face, soaked with her saliva. Steele noted that Sophia has an enlarged tongue and breathes through her mouth, making wearing a mask potentially dangerous.
The Ocean Breeze Elementary School in Indian Harbour Beach that Sophia attends, had implemented its own mask mandate in September in defiance of anti-mask mandate executive orders by Governor Ron DeSantis. Steele also said that his daughter has an individual education plan [IEP] that caters to her personal needs and that families are supposed to be informed by schools when changes are made to their child's IEP. The school, however, never told them she was being made to wear a mask and were never asked to consent, claimed Steele.
Sophia Steele had been having behavioral issues in school
"The student was given a medical mask exemption as soon as the mother made the request to school leadership, "Brevard Public Schools Chief Strategic Communications Officer Russell Bruhn said in 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." The school had previously reported that the little girl Sofia had been having behavioral issues in school. Steele noted that he met with school officials on October 12 where he said personnel admitted to tying the mask to Sophia's head or holding it with hair clips for six weeks.
Sophia Steele's family started a campaign and raised over $30,000
"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." Steele further noted that he has hired an attorney and pulled Sofia out of the school. The family has even launched a campaign titled 'Sofia's Rights' on the Christian fundraising site GiveSendGo and has raised over $30,000 so far.
"On October 7th, our daughter Sofia stepped off of the school bus with a mask tied to her face with a nylon rope. Sofia has Downs Syndrome, and at seven years old, is nonverbal. Due to her condition, her tongue is enlarged. With the mask tied to her face, she was unable to breathe properly and unable to express her distress, " a description of the incident on the site read.