A disturbing new report out of Brevard County, Florida suggests that a school teacher forcibly tied a mask to the face of a child with Down Syndrome. The seven-year-old child, Sofia, was exempt from masking in class due to her condition, according to a GiveSendGo page set up by her father, Jeffrey Steele.
Despite her exemption and her condition, which includes difficulty breathing, a teacher decided to tie a mask around her head using a nylon rope. Sofia’s father says that he and his wife had no idea their child was still being forced to mask at school until she exited the school bus one day with the mask tightly fastened to her face.
They describe her as panicked and red in the face from breathing restrictions after the mask was removed by her mother. Her parents, obviously irate and disgusted by the abuse their child has suffered in class, are now vowing to fight back against the school for violating the state’s Parents’ Bill of Rights.
The story has not received any coverage in mainstream outlets, but an organization called Moms for Liberty in Brevard County ripped the school district and teacher for the abuse:
The GiveSendGo page details exactly what went down and where Sofia’s parents are turning next:
“On October 6th, 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. My wife recognized Sofia’s panic, her face reddened from having her breathing restricted, and comforted Sofia after removing her mask and taking pictures of the rope tied around Sofia’s head to secure a mask to her face. The mask was totally wet from her saliva.
The school put Sofia’s life at risk. For what? Her teachers and the school principal know about Sofia’s condition, and we sent her to school assured that she would not be masked due to the danger it could pose to her. After focusing first on Sofia, and taking some time to control our rage and anger at the school and the teachers for having taken such cruel action, we confronted the school principal and the teacher the following week. At that meeting, they admitted to having tied the mask to Sofia’s face using the nylon rope and admitted that this has been happening without our knowledge since the mask policy was put in place. The school could not explain what drove them to such madness. Unbelievably, their concern at that meeting seemed to be to keep things quiet.
We have decided that Sofia’s story must be told. Across the state of Florida, and throughout the entire country, schools have and continue to act inhumanely by masking children that have medical conditions or other deficits that make the forced masking unsafe and ill-advised. If these schools cared about the children trusted to their care, they would act decently and recognize that concerns over Covid-19 cannot make them blind to the real and immediate needs of our children.
Florida’s Parents’ Bill of Rights is supposed to protect us from seeing Sofia treated like a second-class citizen, her health concerns and fears disregarded by the school, but Sofia’s school disregarded her rights and our rights as our parents to make appropriate health care decisions for Sofia. First among those, as any parent can understand, is to ensure Sofia can breathe and is dealt with as the beautiful seven year old girl that she is. Since the Parents’ Bill of Rights means nothing to Sofia’s school, we have been in contact with Governor Ron DeSantis’ office, the Florida Board of Education, and Florida Senator Debbie Mayfield. We hope that the Governor and the Florida Board of Education will take appropriate action to ensure nothing like what happened to Sofia ever occurs again to another child in Florida.
Even more shocking, the school violated the Brevard County School Board’s so-called “Emergency K-12 Face Covering Requirement” by masking Sofia. The policy says that face coverings shall not be required for children with IEP or 504 plans documenting medical, physical or psychological contraindications. By the plain language of the policy, we trusted that the school would not mask Sofia. The School District placed Sofia at Ocean Breeze Elementary because of their resources for children like Sofia with special needs. We thought when we put her on the bus each morning that they were looking after her, not abusing her. How wrong we were.
We have decided not to sit by and wait to see what comes of the government’s investigation. We believe that parents like us must stand up for our rights and stand up for our children when those that we have trusted to care for and educate our children overstep and act so cruelly and inhumanely. To that end, we are raising funds so that we can take legal action against the school directly. We humbly ask for your support as we seek justice. We have retained Greg Anderson and Nick Whitney of AndersonGlenn LLP to represent us. All proceeds raised from this fundraising campaign will help offset the legal costs necessary in taking on the school and our local government. To the extent funds raised exceed our legal costs, we will make a donation to a charity or non-profit advocating for special needs children.
October is Downs Syndrome Awareness Month and we humbly ask for your help in supporting our case to end the tyranny of the Brevard County School Board. This madness must stop and the school must be held accountable for its abusive actions. On behalf of Sofia and all special needs children, especially those with Downs Syndrome, we are grateful for your support and prayers.”