School Retracts Suspension of Student Who Posted Crowded Hallway Pic

August 7, 2020

    A school in Georgia withdrew its decision to suspend a student who shared a photo of a hallway crowded with pupils back to school amid the pandemic.

    The student, Hannah Watters, said that North Paulding High School called and “deleted” her five-day suspension on Friday morning.

    “This morning my school called and they have deleted my suspension,” Watters wrote in a tweet. “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.”

    “To be 100% clear, I can go back to school on Monday. I couldn’t have done this without all the support, thank you,” Watters clarified in a follow-up tweet.

    The girl and her mother, Lynne Watters, confirmed the canceled suspension to CNN, saying that Lynne spoke to the school’s principal over the phone on Friday morning. According to Lynne, the principal said that Hannah would not be suspended and the punishment would not appear on her permanent record.

    The original photo in question shows a hallway packed with students on the second day of classes at the school, which is just outside of Atlanta.

    The girl said she shared the photo out of coronavirus concerns.

    “Day two at North Paulding High School,” Hannah captioned the pic. “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.”

    “I was mostly anxious nervous and scared because this virus is very serious obviously and we weren’t taking the right precautions to keep people from getting it at the school," she told WXIA-TV, an NBC affiliate in Atlanta. "So I took that picture out of concern for the county and all the kids there and all the teachers and staff."

    WXIA reports that according to the school district’s code of conduct, she used her photo without permission during school hours. However, the code states that students between 9th and 12th grades are permitted to use phones in the hallway.

    Watters told the outlet that staff told pupils they could get in trouble for criticizing the school on social media. She also feels the punishment was excessive.

    “We thought that I would get a slap on the wrist since it was my first offense,” Hannah said.

    In a letter written to the community, Brian Otott, district superintendent, said that the photo was taken out of context and cited challenges in the class change protocol, reports CNN.

    "Class changes at the high school level are a challenge when maintaining a specific schedule. It is an area we are continuing to work on in this new environment to find practicable ways to further limit students from congregating. 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. ... Wearing a mask is a personal choice, and there is no practical way to enforce a mandate to wear them."

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