Pupils who shared photos of packed corridor of maskless Georgia students suspended

'Wearing a mask is a personal choice, and there is no practical way to enforce a mandate to wear them', superintendent insists

Louise Hall
Friday 07 August 2020 15:34 BST
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Pupil who shared photos of maskless students in reopened Georgia school is suspended

At least two high school students in Georgia have allegedly been suspended after sharing a video of school hallway crowded with largely maskless students, according to reports.

North Paulding High School in Dallas went viral after it reopened on Monday when two students shared photos of the school corridors with apparently no social distancing and barely any wearing masks.

Paulding County Schools Superintendent Brian Otott reportedly released a statement saying that the images were taken out of context, that masks were a personal choice for students and reopening was in line with Georgia Department of Education’s health recommendations.

“Students are in this hallway environment for just a brief period as they move to their next class. ... There is no question that the photo does not look good,” Mr Otott said according to CNN.

“Wearing a mask is a personal choice, and there is no practical way to enforce a mandate to wear them.”

Following the alleged suspension 15-year-old Hannah Watters who posted one of the photos and a video on Twitter told Buzzfeed News she received a five-day, out-of-school suspension for posting one photo and one video on Twitter.

According to the report, Ms Watters was given the suspension because she violated the student code of conduct which prohibit students from using social media, taking photos of students and using recording devices without permission.

Another student, who did not want their name used, also told BuzzFeed News that they were suspended for posting photos on Twitter.

“Not only did they open, but they have not been safe,” she said. “Many people are not following Centres for Disease Control guidelines because the county did not make these precautions mandatory.”

Ms Watters told the outlet that it was her first time being reprimanded by the school but said that she does not regret her actions. She said her family plans to fight the alleged suspension.

Students crowd a hallway, Tuesday, 4 August 2020, at North Paulding High School in Dallas, Georgia

“I’d like to say this is some good and necessary trouble,” Ms Watters told CNN.

“My biggest concern is not only about me being safe, it’s about everyone being safe because behind every teacher, student, and staff member there is a family, there are friends, and I would just want to keep everyone safe.”

Michael Tafelski, senior supervising attorney for the Southern Poverty Law Centres’ children’s rights project condemned the actions taken by the school.

“Children do not waive their constitutional rights in school, and the district abused its discretion in suspending these students,“ Mr Tafelski told Buzzfeed News.

“It could not have come at a worst time as families are struggling to cope with the social and economic pressures brought on by the pandemic, including the abrupt school closures in March that disrupted the education of thousands of students.”

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