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Duval County Public Schools, 10 other districts to defend mask mandates Thursday

The Florida Board of Education could decide to withhold funds from districts who are in 'noncompliance' with Gov. DeSantis' executive order.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The issue of mask mandates, and whether school boards have the power to make decisions beyond the governor's authority, is heading to Tallahassee Thursday.

It is expected Duval County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene will defend her district's vote on mandating masks. Dr. Adriana Cantville, a UF Health pediatrician, says she has a good argument.

"What our school board and our superintendent are charged with is creating a safe environment for our children to learn and grow and the first part of that is a safe environment," said Dr. Cantville.

She supports the mandate, which she says is working to reduce COVID-19 cases.

She believes a vaccine is close to getting approved for kids under 12 and wants the district to keep its mandate, calling it a necessary safeguard until that happens. 

"Although it might not be what we want, although it might be unpleasant, we have to do what needs to be done to keep our kids safe and masks have been shown to keep them safe," she told First Coast News.

Some parents who are suing the school board said the district is overstepping.

"This isn't about mask versus no mask. This is about choice," said Father Gary Desjardins.

He expects the Florida Board of Education to find Duval County in violation of the governor's executive order, calling the district hypocritical in its enforcement of their mask requirement.

"You the board can disregard the rule of law but we as parents, or kids, can't. That just isn't right," Desjardins said.

A Duval County Schools spokesperson says the district was not commenting ahead of Thursdays hearing.

The state's education commissioner is recommending to the state board to withhold a portion of the salaries of the school board members as well as any money it receives from the federal government for not complying with state law.

Details of Thursday's meeting can be found here.