ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. — More parents are demanding their school districts require students to wear masks.
A petition has started online with parents asking St. Johns County school leaders to defy the governor's order. The order threatens to withhold money from school districts that mandate masks for students.
"I have two girls," Katie Joyal said. Her daughters did virtual school last year, a precautionary measure when it came to the coronavirus.
This year, they’ll wear masks at their St. Johns County elementary school, but Joyal wants the school district to require masks for students, not just adults.
"It makes me feel a bit more safe knowing that all kids would be required to wear masks," she said.
Many other parents agree, and they are signing an online petition asking the St. Johns County School District to mandate masks for students.
Already, a handful of school districts – including Duval -- is choosing to require students to wear masks. That goes against Governor DeSantis’ order which says schools cannot make students wear face coverings.
"It’s the only protection kids under 12 have," Heat Prediletto told First Coast News Wednesday. She has two children younger than 12 at St. Johns County Schools. Tuesday, she watched the Duval County School District meeting when it chose to make students wear masks but allowing for parents or guardians to "opt out."
She counted seven doctors who spoke in favor of masks for students at that meeting.
"We have to listen to our medical experts," she said.
Chad Neilsen is one of those medical experts. He is UF Health Jacksonville’s Director of Infection Prevention. He tweeted: “Hoping St Johns is watching Duval. I have a young kid who I’m worried will get Delta if measures aren’t taken in those schools. I know the science and it’s still a struggle for me as a parent as well. Masks are the immediate mitigation, vaccines longer term. You can do both.”
The governor has said funding will be withheld from schools districts that do that.
But school districts are starting to defy that order anyway.
Prediletto said, "He (the governor) would have to defund Duval, Alachua, Broward and if St. Johns County stands up for our children, he would also have to defund St. Johns. I don’t think he would defund all of these school districts."
The governor said parents should choose if their children wear masks at school.
"We can’t let our children become political pawns," Prediletto noted.
These two moms said that if kids aren’t required to wear masks, they probably won’t
Prediletto added, "I don’t’ know how the teachers will enforce it."
Joyal said, "They’re kids. Of course, if they see their classmates without a mask, they're gong to take theirs off."
The St. Johns County School District has not made a decision about mandating masks for students.