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Georgia school backs down, reverses suspension of student who shared crowded hallway photo

'I took it out of mostly concern and nervousness'

Image source: CBS News video screenshot

A Georgia high school reversed its decision to suspend a student who tweeted a viral photo of a crowded hallway, which sparked widespread criticism for the school's apparent lack of social distancing, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Sophomore Hannah Watters, 15, attends North Paulding High School in Dallas, Georgia. Earlier this week, Hannah tweeted a photo showing the hallway between classes, where students were packed in the hallways shoulder-to-shoulder with most of them unmasked. She and another student were suspended for sharing photos.

Hannah's mother, Lynne Watters, confirmed that after a conversation with school officials, the suspension was reversed and Hannah will return to school next week.

"I spoke to the principal a short time ago and he has rescinded the suspension and she will have no discipline on her record," Lynne Watters told AJC.

The suspension was related to student conduct policies banning the use of phones during instruction time, the use of a phone during school hours for social media, and recording students and posting the recording on social media.

Hannah admits she broke the rule about posting images of students to social media, but both she and her mother said high school students are exempt from the phone ban and she didn't post the photo until after school.

"Cellphone use is allowed by high school students during non-instructional time, and she did not post to social media until after regular school hours," Lynne Watters said, according to AJC.

WSB-TV first reported that Paulding County Superintendent Brian Otott threatened punishment for students who shared crowded hallway photos, and reported that he only threatened such action after the photos went viral.

Otott said the photo has been taken out of context to criticize the school, although he admitted in a letter to parents obtained by WSB that "there is no question that the photo does not look good."

"Some individuals on social media are taking this photo and using it without context to criticize our school reopening efforts," Otott said, according to WSB. "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."

Hannah said even a suspension would have been worthwhile in the interest of safety.

"I'd like to say this is some good and necessary trouble," Hannah 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."

There have not yet been any reports of COVID-19 cases at the school.

Schools begin reopening amid coronavirus safety concerns youtu.be

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