Two students from a Georgia high school said they have been suspended after they posted images on social media showing crammed hallways filled with maskless kids and a nurse in the same district said she resigned in protest of its reopening amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Hannah Watters, 15, told BuzzFeed News that she was hit with a five-day out-of-school suspension for posting a photo and a video on her Twitter feed.
Another student who preferred to remain nameless took a photo that went viral after it was shared by a Twitter account that goes by the handle @Freeyourmindkid.
The second student who was suspended has not agreed to have their name publicized, so it is unclear if that student took the photo that was shared by @Freeyourmindkind.
It showed a crowded hallway filled with dozens of kids on the first day of class at North Paulding High School, which is located some 25 miles outside of Atlanta.
Two students who posted images on social media showing crowded hallways at North Paulding High School in Paulding County, Georgia (above) say they have been suspended. The image above went viral on Tuesday after it was anonymously posted to Twitter
A 15-year-old student, Hannah Watters, posted the image above to her social media page. It shows kids, most of whom are not wearing masks, crammed inside a hallway at North Paulding High School
The other student who posted these images above was also suspended, though that student’s name has not been revealed
Last weekend, the principal of North Paulding High School informed parents that a member of the school’s football team tested positive for COVID-19. The school is seen in the above file photo
Another image that Watters posted to her Twitter account shows a similar scene – a narrow hallway in which at least scores of mostly maskless students are herded next to each other as they walk toward class.
‘Day two at North Paulding High School,’ the caption reads.
‘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.’
A video Watters posted on Twitter shows a ‘split dismissal.’
In the clip, students, most of whom are not wearing face coverings, are seen wandering the crowded hallways in the school.
A student in Georgia shared a video on TikTok on Monday criticizing her classmates for not wearing masks inside the classroom
Watters said she was called into the office at around noon on Wednesday, where she was informed by administrators that she had violated the student code 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 said.
DailyMail.com has reached out to Watters and Paulding County School District for comment.
On her Twitter feed, Watters posted an image showing the code of conduct which states that students ‘shall not use, display, or turn on….cellular phones, video phones, or electronic devices during instructional time, class change time, breakfast or lunch without permission of the administration and/or teacher.’
The code of conduct also bars students from ‘using personal technology devices to access chat rooms/social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Snapchat, etc, during the regular school day for non-instructional purposes and without the express permission of a teacher.’
According to students, the principal of North Paulding High, Gabe Carmona, made an announcement on the intercom warning them that anyone who criticized the school on social media would be disciplined.
Last weekend, Carmona sent parents a letter informing them that a football player at North Paulding High tested positive for COVID-19 after attending a practice at the school.
Watters told BuzzFeed News that she snapped the photos in order to call attention to how the school ‘ignorantly opened back up.’
‘Not only did they open, but they have not been safe,’ Watters said.
‘Many people are not following CDC guidelines because the county did not make these precautions mandatory.’
Others share Watters’ criticism of the school district, which has been accused of reopening too quickly.
Amy Westmoreland quit her job as the nurse for the Paulding County School District before the school year began because she was worried about contracting COVID-19.
‘I work in the clinic, not the classroom, but my biggest fear was infecting the children or a fellow staff member there in the building [and] them bringing it home to their families,’ she told WSB-TV.
‘I didn’t feel comfortable. And even going back to the school, at the end of the school year, last year, I walked into the building and people were not wearing masks, custodians, administration, teachers, they were not abiding by those.’
Meanwhile another student, believed to be in Tennessee, posted a video on TikTok that she filmed inside her school’s gymnasium, saying she had only seen three other students wearing masks
This photo shared on social media, which was taken outside Etowah High School in Georgia, showed senior students gathering together for a photo to mark the start of the school year
Westmoreland, who quit before the viral photos emerged on social media of the crowded hallways of North Paulding High School, said the images reinforced the sense that she made the right decision.
‘I had already made my decision to resign prior to that picture coming out, but certainly that validated my decision. You know, of course I was horrified and heartbroken when I did see it,’ she said.
Westmoreland said that even though she had a supply of personal protective equipment, it wasn’t enough to make her feel secure in the job under the present circumstances.
‘I don’t feel supported,’ she said.
‘I don’t feel safe. And I feel as though I need to take a stand so that these children who don’t have a voice and are being discouraged from speaking have a voice.’
Westmoreland said she thinks school officials agree with her, but are not permitted to let their feelings be known due to outside pressures.
‘I personally think they do know [of the dangers of reopening],’ she said.
‘I just don’t think that they’re willing to admit it. I believe that there’s a lot of political and financial agendas.
‘And I mean, I don’t see this subsiding anytime soon.’
Rachel Adamus, who lives in Georgia’s Paulding County, sent her two children back to school on Monday wearing masks even though it is not mandatory in the county
She added: ‘The virus is not contained. We do not know enough about it.
‘And there’s that common thread between all of us healthcare workers, no matter what our political stance or religion is.
‘It’s science, it’s facts. And we care for our patients.
‘And I can’t do that in the clinic.’
Rachel Adamus sent her two children back to Paulding County schools on Monday wearing masks.
‘We have kept them protected for so long,’ said Adamus, who said her aunt died from COVID-19 in Alabama and her husband’s great-uncle succumbed to the virus in a New Jersey nursing home.
‘They haven’t been to restaurants. We only go to parks if no one else is there. We don’t take them to the grocery store. And now they’re going to be in the classroom with however many kids for an entire day with a teacher.’
One student who wasn’t starting at North Paulding on Monday was Aliyah Williams.
Her mother, Erica Williams, said she is keeping the 14-year-old freshman home because two of her younger sons have cystic fibrosis and she can’t risk their being exposed.
Williams said she thinks her daughter will be okay academically with online classes, which up to 30% of the district’s students have enrolled in but she is worried about Aliyah’s inability to see her friends.
In a photo provided by Newton County Schools in Mississippi, teaching assistant Crystal May talks to kindergarten student Lewis Henry Thompson as she takes his temperature at Newton County Elementary School on Monday
Following direction, McCartney Moulds, 6, a second-grader, distances herself from a fellow student as she walks to class with full mask following her bus commute, to the Newton County Elementary School in Decatur, Miss. on Monday
‘She’s a social butterfly. That’s a big part of her personality,’ Williams said.
Aliyah has been participating in color guard with the school band, but Williams said she is now ‘conflicted’ about that too, considering the football player’s positive test.
Other Paulding County parents were eager for in-person classes, including Jenna Thames who drove her two sons to school.
Thames said that no one at her house is high-risk and that as a former teacher, she thinks her children will learn more from teachers than they did from her in the spring.
‘They’re going to actually listen to their teacher, as opposed to me. When it’s time to do sight words, it was a fight every day,’ Thames said. ‘I absolutely trust our administration and our teachers to do what it takes to keep them safe and keep themselves safe.’
Many teachers are uneasy, dismayed that the Paulding district refused to mandate masks or push back the start date for in-person classes, as other Atlanta-area districts have done.
‘I desperately want to return to face-to-face teaching, but not until it is safe,’ Steven Hanft, a North Paulding High teacher, told the county school board last month.
Several images and videos posted to social media platforms by students in other parts of the country earlier this week show kids not wearing masks.
Students wearing masks wait for the school bus in Canton, Georgia on Monday morning
Students arrive to Dallas Elementary School in Georgia on Monday for the first day of school
A student in Georgia shared a video on TikTok on Monday criticizing her classmates for not wearing masks inside the classroom.
The video showed the student sitting among her classmates with the caption: ‘When you’re the only one wearing a mask in your class’.
Meanwhile another student, believed to be in Tennessee, posted a video on TikTok that she filmed inside her school’s gymnasium, saying she had only seen three other students wearing masks.
‘First day back to school during a global pandemic. Only saw three students wearing masks,’ she wrote on the video.
‘Can someone tell me why the f**k I was one of a handful of students wearing a f**king mask? These b***es are dirty!’
Tennessee also does not have a statewide mask mandate.
The reopening of schools amid the coronavirus pandemic has become a contentious issues of late.
President Donald Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos have urged schools to reopen.
However, Dr Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, warned on Monday: ‘There may be some areas where the level of virus is so high that it would not be prudent to bring the children back to school.’
‘So you can’t make one statement about bringing children back to school in this country. It depends on where you are,’ he said.
An uptick in COVID-19 has prompted some districts across the country to scrap in-person classes at least for the start of the school year, including Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Washington.
In Indiana, where schools reopened last week, a student at Greenfield-Central Junior High tested positive on the first day back to class and was isolated in the school clinic.
‘This really does not change our plans,’ School Superintendent Harold Olin said.
‘We knew that we would have a positive case at some point in the fall. We simply did not think it would happen on Day One.’
Elsewhere in Indiana, Elwood Junior Senior High suspended in-person classes two days into the school year after at least one staffer tested positive.