Sofia Steele: School ties mask to head of girl with Down Syndrome, 7, for SIX weeks
A Florida father is distraught after school officials allegedly forced his daughter, who has Down Syndrome, to wear a mask by tying it to her head for six weeks.
Speaking to Fox News, Jeffrey Steele, father of nonverbal 7-year old Sofia Steele, revealed that he found out about it only when his daughter got off the school bus on October 7 with a mask strapped to her face, allegedly soaked in saliva. The embattled parent said his daughter has an enlarged tongue and breathes through her mouth, therefore wearing a mask is potentially dangerous. Little Sofia reportedly attended Ocean Breeze Elementary School in Indian Harbour Beach, which defied Governor Ron DeSantis' executive orders and implemented its own mask mandate in September.
Steele told Fox News that his daughter has an individual education plan [IEP] that caters to her personal needs, and while schools are supposed to inform families when changes are made to their child's IEP, he claims officials never told them she was being made to wear a mask without their 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 responded in a statement to the outlet. “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 met with school officials on October 12, where personnel allegedly admitted to tying the mask to Sofia's head or holding it with hair clips for six weeks. According to the report, the school had previously notified the family about Sofia 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 News. “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 added that he has since hired an attorney and pulled his daughter out of school. The family has also launched a fundraising campaign titled "Sofia's Rights" on the GiveSendGo and has already raised over $30,000 of the $50,000 goal. The shocking case drew the ire of a number of elected officials. Republican State Representative Randy Fine ripped 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," Fine declared, as quoted WOFL.
Brevard Public Schools announced a change to the emergency face mask mandate late Friday afternoon, October 22, with superintendent Dr Mark Mullins saying the mandate would transition from having a medical exemption to having a parental opt-out after the daily new Covid case rate dropped to 50 per 100,000, according to the New York Post.
This came after DeSantis waged a legal battle with Florida's school districts over mask mandates. Despite his executive order outlawing the mandates, many districts defied them and stalled his order in court. In response, the governor and state education officials began cutting salaries paid to school board members who voted to keep the mandate for students.