Georgia students threatened with suspension for exposing unsafe COVID-19 practices

Students at North Paulding HIgh face suspensions for posting on social media

North Paulding Georgia
(Credit: Hannah Watters)

Students at a Georgia high school are being threatened with suspension if they expose the school for its lack of adherence to COVID-19 protocols.

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CBS46 reports that Paulding High School students will face consequences if they reveal that mandates like social distancing and wearing masks to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus are being ignored. The controversy erupted this week after a viral photo showed a crowded hallway of students that didn’t appear to be wearing face coverings.

North Paulding Georgia
(Credit: social media)

The predominantly white suburb of Atlanta has labeled wearing a mask a “personal choice” despite the surge of coronavirus cases in Southern states. There has been an ongoing debate about whether schools should be re-opened amid the pandemic.

North Paulding opened Monday. They warned the student body that there would be consequences if more pictures of the school were shared on social media. CBS46 obtained a recording of the warning.

“Anything that’s going on social media that’s negative or alike without permission, photography, that’s video or anything, there will be consequences,” the recording from North Paulding principal Gabe Carmona warned.

An anonymous student told the outlet that they were being punished for raising concerns about the virus and its impact.

“It just sounded like they were trying to cover up the fact that they were putting people in unsafe conditions,” the student who recorded the announcement said.

North Paulding student Hannah Watters, 15, told Buzzfeed that she received a five-day suspension at home for sending out a tweet.

“Day two at North Paulding High School. 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,” she posted.

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The school informed her she’d violated the school of conduct.

“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 told Buzzfeed.

Watters and her family planned to fight the suspension over what she believes is the school “ignorantly” opening back up this school for face to face learning.

“Not only did they open, but they have not been safe,” she said. “Many people are not following CDC guidelines because the county did not make these precautions mandatory.”

Another student, who chose not to be identified, also confirmed their suspension. Paulding County Schools has chosen not to comment on the disciplinary actions.

Instead, they have defended the viral photo by insisting it was a snapshot in time for the 2,000 students who attend the school and that they were in contact for less than 10 minutes.

However, many are not convinced that officials are doing all they can to ensure the health and well being of students and staff who returned to the school on Monday.

Sources told Buzzfeed that there has been an outbreak at Paulding and that football players and teachers have been infected with the virus.

“That was exactly one week ago, so we are all waiting to see who gets sick next week,” a North Paulding teacher told BuzzFeed News.

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Those who choose not to go to school face suspension or expulsion.

“It’s the hallway situation that has me most paranoid,” one student said. “There’s a lot of people in the hallways, and you can’t do nothing about it, so it’s scary.”

Teachers also won’t be informed if they’ve been exposed until contacted by the state.

“A lot of us are terrified,” a teacher said.

Amy Westmoreland, a nurse at the school, quit and shared her resignation letter with Buzzfeed.

“Masks are not a ‘personal choice’ during a pandemic. I cannot return knowing I am not supportive of your decision to open so quickly and not at least mandate masks.”

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