Florida school officials forced a little girl with Down Syndrome to wear a mask by tying it to her head for six weeks, her angry dad claims.
Jeffrey Steele, father of nonverbal 7-year old Sofia Steele, told Fox News that he only found out about the practice when his daughter got off the school bus on Oct. 7 with a mask strapped to her face, soaked with her saliva.
Steele said that Sophia has an enlarged tongue and breathes through her mouth, making wearing a mask potentially dangerous.
She reportedly attended Ocean Breeze Elementary School in Indian Harbour Beach, which had implemented its own mask mandate in September in defiance of anti-mask mandate executive orders by Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Steele told Fox News that his daughter has an individual education plan [IEP] that caters to her personal needs. Families are supposed to be informed by schools when changes are made to their child’s IEP, but he claims the school never told them she was being made to wear a mask and were never asked to consent.
“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 to Fox. “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 said he collected his emotions and met with school officials on Oct. 12, where he said personnel admitted to tying the mask to her head or holding it with hair clips for six weeks.
The school had previously reported that Sofia had been having behavioral issues in school, which Steele also noticed at home.
“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 told Fox. “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 has hired an attorney and pulled Sofia out of the school, he told Fox.
The family has launched a campaign titled “Sofia’s Rights” on Christian fundraising site GiveSendGo, and has already raised over $30,000.