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Georgia teen suspended for posting photo of maskless students in crowded school

Hannah Watters said she posted the photo because she was ‘concerned for the safety of everyone in that building.’

By Emily Singer - August 07, 2020
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North Paulding High School hallway

A Georgia teenager was suspended from school for posting a photo of a crowded hallway filled with maskless students. The image has since gone viral as an example of adults not protecting students or staff during the COVID-19 pandemic, CNN reported on Friday.

Hannah Watters told CNN she believes she was engaged in “good and necessary trouble” — a phrase used by the late-Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) — to shed light on the fact that her school was not taking the pandemic seriously.

“I was concerned for the safety of everyone in that building and everyone in the county because precautions that the CDC and guidelines that the CDC has been telling us for months now, weren’t being followed,” Watters, a student at North Paulding High School, told CNN.

Safely reopening schools has been a hot-button issue during the pandemic, with many schools trying to figure out how to follow social distancing rules to ensure students, staff, and the families they all go home to at the end of the day remain virus-free.

The images of maskless students crammed into a hallway violate the Centers for Disease Control’s guidance for coronavirus prevention.

BuzzFeed News reported that Watters’ act of whistleblowing was deemed a violation of her school’s code of conduct, which bans the use of social media or recording devices without permission. Watters’ now-viral tweets earned her a five-day suspension, BuzzFeed reported.

Paulding County Schools Superintendent Brian Otott claimed the photo of the crowded hallway of maskless students was taken out of context and said it is impossible to force students to wear masks, according to the Washington Post.

“Wearing a mask is a personal choice, and there is no practical way to enforce a mandate to wear them,” Otott said, according to the Washington Post. “What we will do is continue to strongly encourage all students and staff to wear masks.”

However, Paulding High School does enforce a dress code — which requires skirts and dresses to be an “appropriate” length of “3” from the top of the kneecap as measured by a ruler or the length of a 3 x 5 index card” and that “shoulders must be covered.”

Ultimately, as schools across the country reopen, a number have had to quickly shut down or force students and staff to quarantine after coronavirus cases were reported.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

 


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