Georgia school lifts suspension for student who shared crowded hallway photo

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Friday, August 7, 2020
Students suspended from school for sharing photos showing lack of COVID-19 precautions
Multiple Georgia high school students who posted pictures and videos of crowded hallways have been suspended from school.

ATLANTA -- A Georgia high school has lifted the suspension of a student who shared a photo of a crowded hallway on social media.

The mother of 15-year-old Hannah Watters confirmed to ABC News on Friday that North Paulding High School lifted the suspension.

Paulding County School District in Dallas, Georgia, is one of a handful of school districts that came under fire after images surfaced online showing students packed shoulder-to-shoulder, many of them without masks.

The school's superintendent Brian Otott fired back saying students sharing these images and videos would be punished, and it appeared he followed through on that threat.

Watters, a sophomore, said she shared a photo on Twitter of her hallway between classes because she was concerned for her and her classmates' health and safety.

She said she was accused of breaking several codes of conduct and was suspended.

WATCH: Watters talks about why she took the photo that got her suspended

"I took the photo initially after seeing the first day of school photo taken by someone else go online as well and got picked up by some media coverage," Watters said. "And I took it out of mostly concern and nervousness after seeing the first days of school."

On Friday, Watters tweeted about her suspension being lifted.

"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," Watters said. "To be 100% clear, I can go back to school on Monday. I couldn't have done this without all the support, thank you."

Her classmate, fellow sophomore Chelsea Lennon, spoke to Good Morning America, saying she too felt unsafe at North Paulding High School.

"I saw many people were not wearing masks, and it was making me feel really unsafe and uncomfortable to be in school," Lennon said.

WATCH: Do cloth face masks really work? We tested them in the lab

Action News teamed up with a Fresno state microbiologist in an attempt to settle the great mask debate.

In Otott's letter to the community, he defended the school and its safety precautions.

"Some individuals on social media are taking this photo and using it without context to criticize our school reopening efforts," Otott said. "Under the COVID-19 protocols we have adopted, class changes that look like this may happen, especially at a high school with more than 2,000 students."

He said, "Students are in this hallway environment for just a brief period as they move to their next class."

Otott went on to say, "One area where we have received a good deal of feedback is mask use in our schools. Wearing a mask is a personal choice and there is no practical way to enforce a mandate to wear them. What we will do is continue to strongly encourage all students and staff to wear masks."

Meanwhile, Georgia just reported its youngest COVID-19 victim. A 7-year-old with no underlying conditions died from the virus this week.