Florida school did not commit child abuse by tying mask to disabled student's face: police report

The police report does corroborate some of her outraged parents' claims

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A police report determined that a Florida school and its teachers did not commit a crime or child abuse after it emerged last month that they tied a mask to the face of a student with Down syndrome.

"There is insufficient evidence to support a criminal violation" against the teacher and instructional assistant of 7-year-old Sofia Bezerra, reads a police report from the Indian Harbor Police Department, which Fox News obtained Sunday. "There was no evidence presented which supports that Sofia received a physical or emotional injury. This case is closed as Unfounded."

A Florida father is accusing educators at his daughter's elementary school of forcing his daughter with Down syndrome to wear a mask by tying it to her head for about six weeks. (Credit: Jeffrey Steel)

A Florida father is accusing educators at his daughter's elementary school of forcing his daughter with Down syndrome to wear a mask by tying it to her head for about six weeks. (Credit: Jeffrey Steel) (Jeffrey Steele)

"As witnessed by multiple teachers, school aides, bus drivers, and school administration staff, at no time, while having the mask tied on, did (Sofia) ever exhibit any signs of distress, discomfort, difficulty breathing, or any other health concerns," investigators concluded.

FLORIDA EDUCATORS TIED MASK TO DISABLED STUDENT'S FACE FOR 6 WEEKS WITHOUT PARENTS' CONSENT, FATHER SAYS

The report comes after Bezerra's step-father, Jeffery Steel, accused educators at Ocean Breeze Elementary School in Indian Harbour Beach, Florida, of forcing his step-daughter with Down syndrome to wear a mask by tying it to her head for roughly six weeks.

Steel said that Sofia is nonverbal and has an enlarged tongue. He added that she cannot speak but breathes through her mouth, making the use of a mask dangerous to her health.

But on Oct. 7 Sofia stepped off the school bus with a mask wet from her saliva, tied to her head with a thin, nylon string, Steel told Fox News last month. He added that Sofia was not sent to school that day with a mask, nor any day prior.

Ocean Breeze Elementary School (Google Maps)

Ocean Breeze Elementary School (Google Maps) (Google Maps)

Sofia has an individual education plan (IEP), which requires educators to notify parents of any changes to the plan, but Steel said the school never informed him or his wife that Sofia would be required to wear a mask. He also claimed that the school did not ask for consent to tie the mask to her face.

Steel took his complaints to the school a few days later and the incident became the subject of a police investigation to determine if any child abuse had taken place.

Despite recommending against criminal charges as a result of the investigation, the police report does corroborate Steel's claim that teachers at the school tried several methods of attaching a mask to Sofia's face while not contacting her parents for consent. The school contacted other parents whose children were in Sofia's class and also had similar issues with keeping a mask secured, the report said.

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Sofia had received an exemption to the school's mask mandate, which was implemented in defiance of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' attempts to ban school mask mandates, in response to her parents complaint, but Steel hired an attorney and vowed legal action against the school.

FILE - Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at the opening of a monoclonal antibody site Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021, in Pembroke Pines, Fla. (AP Photo/Marta Lavandier)

FILE - Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at the opening of a monoclonal antibody site Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021, in Pembroke Pines, Fla. (AP Photo/Marta Lavandier) (AP Photo/Marta Lavandier)

Steel told Fox News Sunday that he and his attorney would provide further comment on the case in the coming days, adding that he believes the police report bolsters his claims despite its recommendation against criminal charges.

Representatives for Ocean Breeze Elementary School could not be immediately reached for comment Sunday.