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Duval Middle Schooler Joins Ag Secretary In Call for Masks

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Sydney Boles
/
WJCT News

A Jacksonville middle schooler has been in the national news for her advocacy on masks in schools.  

Seventh-grader Lila Hartley wrote a letter asking the Duval County School Board for mandatory masks. The board is allowing parents to opt out. 

“I wrote this letter because of my brother,” Hartley said. “He is 10 years old and is not eligible to get the vaccine, and I just don’t want him or any other kids that can’t get vaccinated to get sick at school.”

Hartley was a guest of Florida Agriculture Secretary Nikki Fried on a call with reporters Monday.  

Fried, a Democrat running to unseat Gov. Ron DeSantis, believes the governor is in violation of the state Constitution for threatening to withhold funding from school districts that require masks. 

“The decision of appropriation is left up to the Legislature,” Fried said. “And it is in our Constitution that our school boards are given the authority to protect the health and safety of our children, and to provide a healthy, safe environment. So I do believe there’s a constitutionality question.”

The Duval County School Board last week voted to require masks  — sort of —  while providing parents an opportunity to opt children out of wearing them. That’s in line with the State Board of Education’s new rules passed as an emergency at DeSantis’ order. 

Lila Hartley’s dad, Matt Hartley, is helping lead the Duval Schools Pandemic Solutions Team, which has organized protests calling on the school district to cross the governor and require mandatory masks. 

Now, the group is asking for a workaround: They believe the city could enact a mask mandate that would include schools. 

With little interest from City Hall though, it will be up to parents to mask their kids when classes start Tuesday. 

Contact Sydney Boles at sboles@wjct.org, or on Twitter at @sydneyboles.