The viral photo showed students at North Paulding High School, outside Atlanta, crowded in the hallways and with few masks visible. Hannah Watters, the second year who posted it, said she was initially suspended for the act.
Her mother Lynne Watters told CNN she spoke with the school principal by phone on Friday morning. She was told her daughter would not be suspended and that a suspension would not appear in her daughter’s file.
Watters was originally told that Hannah was on suspension for breaking several parts of the high school code of conduct, including using a cell phone during school hours, using social media during school hours and violating the privacy of students by photographing them, she said.
Lynne Watters said her daughter posted the photo on social media after normal school hours and high school students in North Paulding were allowed to use their cell phones during class.
A worried student
Hannah told CNN’s Laura Coates on Thursday that she felt compelled to share what it looked like inside the school, so she took a photo of the scene and posted it on social media .
“I was concerned for the safety of everyone in this building and everyone in the county because the precautions the CDC and the guidelines the CDC has been telling us for months now were not being followed,” Watters said.
As schools open for the new school year across the country, parents and administrators are making tough decisions about how to ensure students get the education they need while staying safe in a pandemic In progress. While many have responded to the resurgence of cases with completely remote schooling, others have chosen to return to the classroom – something the nation’s leading infectious disease specialist, Dr Anthony Fauci says, works if the measures safety are the priority.
CNN has contacted North Paulding High School and the Paulding County School District and has received no response.
The Superintendent’s Explanation
In a letter to the community, Superintendent Brian Otott said the photo was taken out of context, writing: “Class changes at the high school level are a challenge for maintaining a specific schedule. This is an area we continue to work on in this area. new environment to find practical ways to further prevent students from gathering. Students are in this hallway environment for a brief period as they move on to their next class. … There is no doubt 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 it. ”
Watters said the time to move from one class to the next is only about five minutes, but students of all classes often walk from one end of campus to the other, passing by countless people.
Watters said she was suspended for the photo and the school said it violated three policies of conduct: using her phone during school hours, using her phone during school hours for the media social media and film students and post on a social media platform.
But students in grades 9 to 12 are exempt from the phone ban, Watters said, and she did not release the photo until after school was over. Watters admitted she broke the policy of posting student images on social media, but she doesn’t regret it.
“I would like to say that these are good and necessary problems,” Watters said. “My biggest concern is not only to protect myself, but also to make sure that everyone is safe because behind every teacher, student and staff member, there is a family, there are friends. and I would just like to keep everyone safe. ”
Otott’s letter to parents said the school district planned to have to make “adjustments.” The district previously decided to do virtual learning days on Thursday and Friday for students receiving in-person instruction, “so all of our schools can step back and assess how things are going so far.” Otott said.
Asked about the photo on Friday, Georgia Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan echoed Otott’s letter, saying school districts should “make adjustments” to find the best way to educate students, calling it ” work in progress”.
“Just like a business has to earn the trust and confidence of its customers, I think schools are going to have to earn the trust of parents and students,” Duncan said. “It’s a work in progress, and we’ll do our best. “
CNN’s Pamela Kirkland, Dianne Gallagher, Alta Spells and Dakin Andone contributed to this report.