A Georgia high school has dropped its five-day suspension for at least one student who posted a photo of crowded hallways showing students without face masks.
Hannah Watters, 15, tweeted Friday that she was no longer suspended from North Paulding High School in Dallas, Georgia. She told the Associated Press that her principal called her mother, apologized, and completely removed her punishment, leaving her surprised and “very grateful.”
The 30,000-student suburban Atlanta school district resumed classes Monday with 70% of students returning for in-person instruction five days a week. The county had let students decide between in-person or online classes, but the system's online learning slots filled up.
Last week, multiple football players at North Paulding tested positive for the coronavirus.
The suburban Atlanta high school received national attention this week when images of crowded hallways showed students in clusters without face coverings. Watters shared a photo on Twitter and wrote, "This is not ok. Not to mention the 10% mask rate."
"This isn’t a joke. These are many lives, kids to be precise."
Day two at North Paulding High School. It is just as bad. We were stopped because it was jammed. We are close enough to the point where I got pushed multiple go to second block. This is not ok. Not to mention the 10% mask rate. pic.twitter.com/JKbGYqG9RS
— hannah (@ihateiceman) August 4, 2020
Watters said she posted the image because she was concerned about her and her classmates' health and safety.
She said that she was then suspended for five days for violating rules on students posting school images on social media. BuzzFeed News reported that a second, unnamed, student was also suspended.
Her mother also confirmed Friday to ABC News that the school had lifted the suspension.
This morning my school called and they have deleted my suspension. To everyone supporting me, I can’t thank you enough. If I’m not responding it’s because my life has been somewhat crazy the past few days. Once again thank you. ❤️
— hannah (@ihateiceman) August 7, 2020
In an email sent Tuesday to parents, Paulding County Superintendent Brian Ottot said the pictures were accurate but that the district is following state guidelines. "It is an area where we are continuing to work on in this new environment to find practicable ways to further limit students from congregating,” he wrote.
He added: "There is no question that the photo does not look good.”
Ottot still defended the district's decision not to require masks. “Wearing a mask is a personal choice and there is no practical way to enforce a mandate to wear them," he wrote.
Watters said she was "highly disappointed" that her district is making masks optional. She kept tallies of her classmates and found only a third were wearing masks.
A spokesman for the district couldn't immediately be reached for comment by the Associated Press on Friday.
Georgia state Superintendent Richard Woods, in a Friday statement, said "I want to encourage our districts and schools to operate with transparency, and to ensure that students and staff are not penalized for expressing their concerns."
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North Paulding was not the only Georgia school to see maskless photos go viral online this week. In a neighboring school district, dozens of seniors gathered at two high schools to take traditional first-day-of-school senior photos, with students squeezing together in black outfits. No one in the pictures wore a mask.
Georgia hit a new weekly high for COVID-19 deaths on Tuesday, having averaged 51 confirmed deaths over the last seven days. According to the Georgia Department of Health, the state had reported a total of 204,895 confirmed cases and 4,026 deaths as of Thursday.
Contributing: The Associated Press, Elinor Aspegren and Doug Stanglin, USA TODAY
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: COVID: Georgia student no longer suspended after posting photo