Indian Harbour Beach, Florida, has been defying Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ ban on mask mandates, voting to implement them in their schools. Normally, that could be spun into positive media coverage — especially in the more liberal quarters of the mainstream media.
It doesn’t help, however, when educators at one of the town’s schools are alleged to have tied a mask to the face of a special-needs child for weeks.
According to WOFL-TV, Jeffrey Steele says his 7-year-old non-verbal daughter, who has Down syndrome, came off the bus one afternoon from Ocean Breeze Elementary School with the mask tied around her head, soaked in her saliva.
Steele’s daughter Sofia breathes through her mouth due to an enlarged tongue, so mask-wearing could be potentially dangerous for her.
“Medically, she could aspirate. She could asphyxiate; [there are] all sorts of medical things that could happen and because of her breathing, because of her enlarged tongue [it] could cause seizures,” Steele said.
Steele said his daughter had an individual education plan with the school that lays out her special needs, according to Fox News. The plan requires parents to be apprised if any changes were being made to it.
However, Steele said he wasn’t informed — and since Sofia is non-verbal, she couldn’t tell her parents it was happening.
Sofia first came home wearing the mask on Oct. 7. The father said he waited several days, saying he needed to “take some time” to calm down, before confronting the school on Oct. 12.
During a meeting, he said school personnel told him that a mask had been affixed to Sophia’s head for about six weeks, either by tying it around her head or holding it in place with hair clips. He said he assumed school officials were taking it off of his daughter before sending her home.
“I was just flabbergasted,” Steele said, adding that they had previously contacted Ocean Breeze Elementary because they “saw big behavior changes in Sofia 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 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.”
The negative behavior included Sophia removing her shoes at school.
Brevard Public Schools chief strategic communications officer Russell Bruhn said the school district was looking into it.
“The student was given a medical mask exemption as soon as the mother made the request to school leadership,” 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.”
Steele is pulling his daughter out of the school and has lawyered up. While he’s started a crowdfunding effort called “Sofia’s Rights,” he said he doesn’t “want her to be a spectacle.”
However, Florida lawmakers — including Gov. DeSantis and GOP Florida state Rep. Randy Fine, drew attention to the case, noting that what the school allegedly did to Sofia was already against state regulations and that Fine planned “to introduce legislation to increase the penalty.”
“We’re going to be having a special session in Tallahassee, and I expect that we’ll pass a law in Sofia’s honor that puts people like Brevard Heart school board members who did this to Sofia in prison for a very long time,” Fine said, adding he was “sick” when he heard about the story.
Fine also pointed to the school board members who voted for the mask mandates, promising “a special place in hell for people who did this to that man’s daughter.”
For Steele, however, he wonders why administrators simply wouldn’t communicate with him.
“Why in the world, since the mandate happened back in September and you were going to begin to put this on my child then tie it on my child, would you never pick up the phone and call me and ask me to give me my informed consent?” he told WOFL.
If what he’s alleging is true, the most plausible answer is that — like so many other be-woked school districts across this great land — they simply didn’t want to be answerable to a parent who dared to think he knew what was better for his child than they did.
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