Principal drops penalty for Georgia teen over school photos


ATLANTA (AP) — A Georgia teenager who got a five-day suspension after raising an alarm about crowded conditions at her high school says her principal called to apologize, and completely removed her punishment.

Fifteen-year-old sophomore Hannah Waters shared images with The Associated Press that show most people not wearing masks in crowded hallways at her school in Dallas, Georgia.

Multiple football players at North Paulding tested positive just before school started, and she said she felt unsafe in a place with no social distancing.

The principal’s apology came Friday after state Superintendent Richard Woods said students and staff should not be penalized for expressing concerns. 

ORIGINAL STORY: DALLAS, Ga. — A Georgia high school student says she was suspended after she posted a photo of a crowded hallway at her school.

Hannah Watters, a sophomore at North Paulding High School in Dallas, Georgia, posted a photo on Twitter showing students walking down a crowded hallway.

Some students were wearing masks, but not all.

The 15-year-old said she posted the photo because she was concerned.

“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,” Hannah said. “And I took it out of mostly concern and nervousness after seeing the first days of school.”

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

Paulding County School’s Superintendent Brian Otott said in a letter to the community that the photo was taken out of context.

“There is no question that the photo does not look good,” he wrote. “Students are in this hallway environment for just a brief period as they move to their next class.”

He also said: “Class changes at the high school level are a challenge when maintaining a specific schedule. It is an area we are continuing to work on in this new environment to find practicable ways to further limit students from congregating.”

Otott said masks are not required at the school, though they are strongly encouraged.

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