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Get Your Money Back.

As part of the continuing saga of the 7 year old child with Down Syndrome whose parents are suing the Brevard School Board, the attorney for the couple, Nicholas P. Whitney of the law firm Anderson Glenn, LLC., released a statement concerning the release of the Indian Harbor Beach Police Department’s investigation into the incident where the parents, supported by State Representative Randy Fine, allege the child was abused by the school district and teachers at her school.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Although we have done so in the past, we are not going to continue to use the child’s name in our coverage of this. No matter how this all shakes down, we feel the child is a pawn in a political game and we will not further any damage to her or her reputation going forward. In that some states do not allow the publishing of the names of minor abused children, we are going to err on the side of caution and not use the child’s name as there are charges of abuse in this case. We won’t edit the statement by others)

Here is the statement as seen on Fine’s Facebook page.

As we often do, we want to fiske Whitney’s response.

Sophia’s mask was soaked through with saliva and it was not clear to Shirley how long her child was masked without her consent.

The face covering policy was well known throughout Brevard County. Parents were advised they could opt out of the policy with a medical reason. Therefore, “consent” was given when the parents decided on their own free will not to opt out the child from the face covering policy. The teacher says a note on the policy was attached to [the child’s] backpack when she went home on the 8/30/21, and that note was gone the next day which she took to mean that the note was read by the parents.

Secondly, the police report shows that the aide on the bus as well as the driver of the bus were interviewed and neither saw the mask being “soaked.”

Under both the Brevard County School Board’s mask policy and Florida law, Sofia was not to be masked, except at her parents’ sole discretion.

The Brevard County School’s face covering policy states the following:

Medical Certification – A face covering shall not be required for persons who present school district staff with a certification from a licensed health care provider that the person has a medical, physical, or psychological contraindication that prevents the person from being able to safely wear a face covering.

IEP/504 – A face covering shall not be required for persons who have documented through an IEP or 504 plan that the person has a medical, physical, or psychological contraindication that prevents the person from being able to safely wear a face covering.

Pages 11 – 12 of the IHBPD report lays waste to this claim by Whitney.

When discussing the IEP for [the child] Ms. Steel stated an IEP was filed for [the child] with Ocean Breeze Elementary School as well as the Brevard Public School System. When asked if the IEP for [the child] specifically stated [the child] was not to wear a mask, Ms. Steel stated no, they did not put anything about not wearing a mask into [the child’s] IEP. Ms. Steel stated the school never asked her if it was acceptable for [the child] to wear a mask. When asked if Ms. Steel ever formally notified Ocean Breeze Elementary School, or the Brevard School System, in writing, of an exception for [the child] to the Brevard Public School mask mandate policy, Ms. Steel stated no, she never notified them.

The report goes on to say that once the School was informed that the Steels did not wish a mask to be on [the child,] they arranged a meeting with the mother (as Mr. Steel is not a legal guardian) and the paperwork was immediately completed.

In short, Whitney’s statement on this issue is contrary to the known facts.

….teachers admitted that they did not only mask [the child] on October 7th, but had been tying a mask tightly to [the child’s] face for six weeks to guarantee she could not remove it.

This is a blatant lie.

None of the teachers or aides ever said the mask was tied tightly to [the child’s] face. In fact, the opposite was true. The mask was tied only to the point where it was trying to keep the mask in place.

None of the teachers, the aides, the bus drivers, the administration or even the Steels ever saw red marks on [the child’s] face which would have indicated that the mask was tightly tied. In fact, the teachers and aides in their sworn statements said they were retying the mask 2-3 times a day because it was falling off.

None of the teachers, aides, bus drivers or administration saw the mask secured so tightly that is made an indentation into [the child’s] skin.

If the mask was tied so tightly to [the child] throughout the day and on the school bus, wouldn’t the parents have seen red marks and or impressions of the mask when [the child] got home and stepped off the bus?

In addition, the school personnel said that [the child] would remove the mask to eat and drink. If the mask was tied in a manner to guarantee it could not be removed, how was [the child] able to remove it? In fact, the teachers and aides statements all indicated that the mask was tied with a “big loop” so it was easy to remove.

The principal at the [the child’s] school confirmed that the school’s policy was to speak with the parents before ever tying a mask to a child’s face and that did not happen.

That is not what the principal said.

From page 15 of the IHBPD report:

When asked if there was any policy in place which addressed masks falling off, or best practices when masks continually fall off, Principal Michaud stated there was no policy in place, standard practice in cases where the mask would fall off due to no fault of the student, would be to communicate with the school administration or the student’s parents. Principal Michaud stated she gives her teachers autonomy to problem solve. In this case, Ms. Godden’s attempts to correct the problem of the mask falling off was not a violation of any school policy or procedure. (emphasis ours)

It was the policy to communicate with the administration or the parents.

Whitney’s claim that the policy was to communicate with the parents is not a truthful statement.

For unknown reasons, certain press outlets have focused on the timing of the photos Jeff and Shirley took of their daughter […] to demonstrate the manner in which the mask was tied to her face. The Indian Harbor Police report confirms that the photos taken by Shirley show how Ocean Breeze tied the mask to [the child’s] face.

The reasons some outlets have focused on the timing when the photos were taken is several fold.

First, Steel went to the press – including national media – and claimed the pictures he was showing were taken the day of the alleged incident. They were not.

Secondly, Steel told the police in their first interview with him that the photos were those taken the day of the alleged incident. They were not.

When confronted with images from the school that were taken the day of alleged incident, Steel changed his tune and said that the photos were taken at a later date. Mrs. Steel told investigators that she had tied the mask on in the manner which she remembered.

Whitney knows that the truthfulness of any witness or complainant is a key element in any case. His client(s) lied to the public, the media and the police.

That’s the reason there is focus on the images and their timing.

In addition, Whitney misstates the the IHBPD confirmed how the mask was secured to [the child’s] face.

A Ms. Dougherty met with the investigator and stated that she had taken pictures of the Special Needs class on 10/07/21. (see page 23 of the IHBPD report) The reason she did this was that the school published a yearbook of sorts and the Special Needs class was often forgotten in the taking the pictures for the yearbook. Doughterty stated that she took pictures of the Special Needs class including [the child] on 10/07/21. The metadata on the pictures she took backs up her claim of the day the pictures were taken. Doughterty provided the pictures to the investigator.

That fact sets up this portion from page 28 of the police report:

When asked if there was any additional information related to the incident on 10/07/21, Ms. Godden pulled out blown up pictures she had printed. The pictures were those pictures Dr. Steel had been distributing to the news media, showing [the child’s] want a mask tied on to her, and those pictures were, according to Dr. Steel, pictures of [the child] getting off the bus on 10/07/21. Ms Godden then pointed out all the differences and inconsistences between those pictures distributed by Dr. Steel, and the pictures taken by Ms. Dougherty on 10/07/21 @1406hrs. The clothes are different, the designs on the t-shirts are different, the masks are different, the shoelace string is also not tied the same. (emphasis ours.)

Contrary to Whitney’s assertions, the school said the mask in the pictures provided by Steel was not secured in the same manner as they had been doing.

At the time the pictures were taken, no one could have known that the images would be of importance in a lawsuit, but they are now. There is no reason for Dougherty to have done anything to pictures. There is a reason for the Steels and their attorney to make false claims that the images they were distributing were taken the day of the alleged incident.

One outlet in particular, Florida Today, reported that the IHB PD had determined that there was insufficient evidence that any crimes were committed against [the child].

[….]

The IHB police report had been forwarded to to the State Attorney’s office for final review.

This is statement where there is a great deal of omission from the facts.

From page 33 of the IHBPD report:

On 11/03/21, a meeting was held at the State Attorney’s Office – 18th Judicial District, in Viera, FL to discuss this case. Present at the meeting were Assistant State Attorney Julia Lynch, Assistant State Attorney Bill Respess, BCSO Staff Services Agent Joe Martin, IHBPD Chief David Butler and myself. During the meeting all facts and evidence obtained in this case was reviewed. At the conclusion of the meeting, it was confirmed that there was insufficient evidence indicating any crimes were committed against [the child] regarding the mask being tied onto her. However, Assistant State Attorney Julia Lynch requested the entire file case be forwarded to her for final review.

It is clear that the Florida Today’s reporting that the IHBPD found no evidence of a crime is a factual statement.

It would appear that Assistant State Attorney Julia Lynch agrees as that was the conclusion arrived at in the meeting.

The fact that Lynch wanted the file for a final review is standard procedure.

Jeff and Shirley have consistently maintained that it was not their goal to have someone jailed. Attorneys for the family have pointed out that from the instant a teacher touched [the child], a mentally and physically challenged child to tie a mask to her face without state authority, or parental consent, they were guilty of child abuse under Chapter 827, Florida Statutes.

The FloridaToday attempted to contact Nick Whitney and asked which part of the statute the school, the teachers, the aides, and the School Board violated.

Whitney has declined to answer.

Florida Statute Chapter 827 goes into what child abuse is.

Specifically,

827.03 Abuse, aggravated abuse, and neglect of a child; penalties.—
(1) DEFINITIONS.—As used in this section, the term:
(a) “Aggravated child abuse” occurs when a person:
1. Commits aggravated battery on a child;
2. Willfully tortures, maliciously punishes, or willfully and unlawfully cages a child; or
3. Knowingly or willfully abuses a child and in so doing causes great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement to the child.
(b) “Child abuse” means:
1. Intentional infliction of physical or mental injury upon a child;
2. An intentional act that could reasonably be expected to result in physical or mental injury to a child; or
3. Active encouragement of any person to commit an act that results or could reasonably be expected to result in physical or mental injury to a child.

It is clear that the school’s actions do not meet the definition of “aggravated child abuse,” so we are left with Whitney’s accusation of “child abuse.”

[The child] has shown no effects of being masked. In fact, once her parents updated her IEP, [the child] has asked about and is seen on video wanting to wear a mask. If there was or is “abuse,” it is hard to see that [the child] would want to be “abused” more.

Furthermore, there is video of [the child] running, playing and participating with the mask on. It is difficult to imagine how she would accede to face covering is she was being abused.

It should also be noted that Whitney claims that the parents don’t want to see any one jailed over this. If that is the case, then why is Whitney citing a criminal code with penalties that require the incarceration of individuals who abuse children?

Along the same lines, why is Randy Fine still rockin’ the hash tag #JailJenkins if the parents don’t want to see anyone go to jail? Is he acting and spouting rhetoric that is against the parents’ wishes, or is Whitney not representing the wishes of the parents in a true and accurate manner?


This is a long post and we apologize for the length.

We believe that the police report is so long that in this day of tweets and other social media, people won’t actually read the report and will rely on what is being told to them.

In this case, what attorney Nick Whitney is claiming is so outside the police report that it is hard for us to comprehend.

It is almost as if he never read the actual report because, as we have shown here, his statements are contrary to the police report. This is particularly odd when he claims the police report says something when it clearly does not.

He is counting on the ignorance of the people in Brevard and elsewhere to rely on statements he makes. Part of that reliance will result in more money being donated for the lawsuit he is filing on behalf of the parents.

If this press release is the best Whitney can do, people who have donated should demand their money back.



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