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Georgia Students Suspended For Showing Crowded Halls And Maskless Classmates

With research painting an increasingly grim picture of how much the COVID-19 virus can be present in children and the realities of how coronavirus cases can flare up as schools re-open already presenting themselves, it's not exactly a surprise to see parents less enthusiastic about the prospect of sending their kids back to school.

Nonetheless, some counties in Georgia have proceeded to reopen their schools for in-person classes, particularly those in the Cherokee County and Paulding County school systems.

And once classes opened up, the world was soon greeted with photos of crowded hallways with noticeably few students wearing masks.

But in the case of North Paulding High School, this whistle-blowing has not occurred without consequence.

On Monday and Tuesday, 15-year-old Hannah Watters posted a photo and video on Twitter showing the crowded hallways of her school.

Hannah Watters

Of this one, she said that students were stopped due to a jam in foot traffic and she recalled being pushed and jostling multiple times while trying to walk to her second class.

She also noted that only about 10% of the students in this photo were wearing face masks and she further told Buzzfeed News that less than half of her classmates in every class she took had them on.

As she put it, "Not only did they open, but they have not been safe. Many people are not following CDC guidelines because the county did not make these precautions mandatory."

However, when Wednesday rolled around, Watters found herself in the office as administrators told her she violated the student code of conduct.

Hannah Watters

As she said, "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."

For this, she received a five-day out of school suspension that her family plans to fight.

Although their term of suspension was not disclosed, a second student who wished to remain anonymous also told Buzzfeed News they were suspended for posting photos on Twitter.

At first, it may seem as though officials at North Paulding High School are simply adhering to the letter of their policies regardless of the context for violating them.

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However, a Wednesday announcement from Principal Gabe Carmona suggests that the school is actively suppressing criticism of its response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As he said in a recording obtained by ABC News, "Anything that is going on on social media that is negative on our light, there will be consequences for both students or anyone who sends out those pictures so please be careful."

And this isn't the only way that students can be reprimanded for not going along with their school's reopening plans.

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Despite the clear cause for concern in these photos and the fact the school district considers mask wearing "a personal choice," Buzzfeed News reported that students were told they could face expulsion if they don't attend in-person classes.

Last month, a teacher at North Paulding High School resigned out of concern for their safety.

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As ABC News reported, Nurse Amy Westmoreland at W.C. Abney Elementary School in the same district has also resigned over similar safety concerns.

As she said, "Part of my job as a nurse is to heal the sick, not to make them sick. And I felt that given my role, I'd be in a lot of situations where I could infect children and other adults in the building."

h/t: Buzzfeed News, ABC News