A Florida father is fuming after a teacher at his daughter’s school allegedly masked her despite having a medical exemption.
Jeffery Steele and his 7-year-old daughter, Sofia, live in Indian Harbour Beach, Florida. The father noticed his daughter wearing a face mask when she got off her school bus on Oct. 7. He was puzzled because it was the first time he saw her return from school with a mask on.
When he looked closer, Mr. Steele said he found the face mask was tied around his daughter’s head with a blue nylon string and held in place with hair clips.
“My wife recognized Sofia’s panic, her face covered, causing her breathing to be restricted and blocking her ability to say ‘memai,'” Steele said, adding that she then 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,” she observed.
Sofia reportedly has Down Syndrome, and her father is furious because of his belief that tying a mask to her head put his non-verbal daughter in possible danger.
“I was so angry. So, I waited four days from Thursday 7th to Tuesday after Columbus Day because I really needed to calm down,” Steel told WOFL-TV. “When this child got off the bus and had the mask, it was tied around the back of her head underneath her ponytail and it was quite tight around her face.”
The 7-year-old has an enlarged tongue and breathes through her mouth, which makes wearing a face mask potentially dangerous, said her father, who added Sofia has an individual education plan at the school that caters to her special needs. He thought she was exempt from Ocean Breeze Elementary School’s mask mandate because of her disability.
“Medically, she could aspirate. She could asphyxiate. All sorts of medical things could happen and because of her breathing, because of her enlarged tongue, could cause seizures,” Steele said.
The elementary school is covered by Brevard County’s mask mandate, which was first implemented Aug. 30. The mandate was recently extended to Oct. 29.
Her parents do not know how long she may have been forced to wear a face mask because Sofia has difficulty communicating. Her father believes the school forced the mask on his daughter for about six weeks and suspects her teacher removed Sofia’s mask every day before leaving school, until the day he noticed her mask.
Steele fumed, “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?”
The school had allegedly contacted Sofia’s parents because a teacher was reportedly concerned the girl was removing her shoes in class. Steele removed his daughter from Ocean Breeze Elementary School and has hired an attorney.
The father set up a fundraising campaign on the Christian crowdfunding site GiveSendGo. As of this writing, the campaign has already raised $37,961 of its $50,000 goal from 763 donors.
“All proceeds raised from this fundraising campaign will help offset the legal costs necessary in taking on the school and our local government,” the campaign states.
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