Two Georgia high school students said they were suspended from school this week for social media posts showing crowded hallways at North Paulding High School. Another picture of largely maskless students packed together in between classes quickly went viral, sweeping the school, which is about an hour outside of Atlanta, and the students up in a national debate over the safety and wisdom of reopening schools for the new academic year in the middle of a pandemic.
One of the disciplined students is 15-year-old sophomore Hannah Watters, who told BuzzFeed News that she received a five-day suspension for posting one video and one photo to Twitter, neither of which were the original viral photo. “The policies I broke stated that I used my phone in the hallway without permission, used my phone for social media, and posting pictures of minors without consent,” she said. Watters admitted to breaking some of the school’s rules on social media use, but that it was done in service of protecting the school community’s health and safety. “I’d like to say this is some good and necessary trouble,” Watters told CNN. “My biggest concern is not only about me being safe, it’s about everyone being safe because behind every teacher, student and staff member, there is a family, there are friends, and I would just want to keep everyone safe.”
School principal Gabe Carmona announced Wednesday that students posting negative social media posts will face consequences.
When the high school reopened Monday for the new year, the school football team reported a string of positive tests after team workouts. Also, according to BuzzFeed News, “multiple teachers at North Paulding say there are positive tests among school staff, including a staff member who came into contact with most teachers at the school while exhibiting symptoms last week. Teachers and staff said the school won’t confirm coronavirus infections among district employees, citing privacy reasons.”
Update, Aug. 7, 2020, at 11:35 a.m.: Hannah Watters tweeted Friday morning that the school had notified her that they had “deleted” her suspension.
For more of Slate’s political coverage, subscribe to the Political Gabfest on Apple Podcasts or listen below.