Photos surfaced this week from inside North Paulding High School in Georgia showing packed hallways full of students, most of whom were not wearing face masks. At least two students say they have been suspended as a result, with the district claiming they violated various policies, including unauthorized use of their phones and social media during academic hours as well as posting pictures of minors without their consent, according to Buzzfeed News.
Hannah Watters, 15, spoke with the outlet and said she was given a five-day suspension for sharing both a photo and a video on Twitter.
She described the second day of school as just as bad as the first. Her tweet said everyone was so close while walking in the hallways in between classes that she was pushed back on multiple occasions.
“This is not ok,” she said.
Watters also noted in her tweet a 10 percent mask rate among her peers and even kept notes from her classes for the first three days. While the stats she gave were in most cases were higher than her initial claim, in every instance, fewer than half of the students in a given block were observed wearing face coverings. In one case, the ratio was 30:5 in favor of those free of masks.
Watters told Buzzfeed News she posted the photos in an effort to shine a light on what was happening inside her school. She said the district “ignorantly opened back up.”
“Many people are not following CDC guidelines because the county did not make these precautions mandatory.”
Discipline came Wednesday afternoon when Watters was called into the principle’s office and officially reprimanded. Another teen, who did not want to be named, told the outlet they too were suspended under similar circumstances.
That same day, an announcement was reportedly made on the building’s intercom by Principal Gabe Carmona in which he said anyone who made social media posts showing the school in a negative light were subject to suspension.
This is the first day of school in Paulding County, Georgia. pic.twitter.com/fzdidaAABM
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Watters said she believed her punishment to be “excessive” but also acknowledged she went against a conduct policy.
“We have a progressive discipline system. When disciplining me and the other student, they skipped level one and went straight to two,” she explained.
Watters plans to appeal her suspension.
Senior supervising attorney for the Southern Poverty Law Center’s children’s rights project Michael Tafelski chimed in on the situation, saying the district abused its power.
“Children do not waive their constitutional rights in school,” he said in a statement.
As The Inquisitr previously reported, a second-grader in Georgia already tested positive for COVID-19, causing the student along with 20 classmates and a teacher to quarantine at home and begin remote learning for at least two weeks.