As some school districts across the country move forward and hold some classes in person amid the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic, it’s no surprise that students, teachers, and communities in general are worried about the outcome. Particularly concerning, for example, was a recent photograph from at North Paulding High School in Dallas, Georgia, which went viral on Twitter for an obvious reason: The photo shows an absolutely packed hallway and some students without masks.
After the first photo went viral, a photo and a video from a student who later talked to BuzzFeed News also went viral, this time on Tuesday, with a similarly crowded hallway and the caption: “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.” Now that student says they’ve been suspended.
That student talked to BuzzFeed News about their side of the story in an interview, saying they were brought to the school office on Wednesday. They told the outlet that the policies they violated include using their phone in the hallway without permission, using their phone for social media, and posting pictures of minors without their consent. They said they have been suspended for five days and that their family intends to fight the suspension. A second student also told BuzzFeed they’d been suspended for sharing photos on social media.
In an email to The New York Times, one student’s mother, who filed a grievance with the school, said: “I expressed my concerns and disagreement with that punishment.”
Here is that first photo that went viral:
And here is the second:
And the video:
It’s not yet known who took the first photo that went viral and whether or not they have been disciplined by the school.
Principal Gabe Carmona reportedly announced over the school’s intercom system that students caught criticizing the school on social media could face disciplinary consequences.
As reported by BuzzFeed, teachers at the school have been provided with face shields and masks, but are not required to actually wear them. Students, similarly, are not required to wear face masks, though they are encouraged to do so. While some students are allowed to do online learning, local news outlet 11 Alive reports that not all students who wanted to sign up for virtual learning were able to because spots filled up, and if children weren’t sent to school, they would be withdrawn.
Here is a parent of a student at a neighborhood high school talking about just that issue:
As reported by local outlet WSBTV, Paulding Superintendent Brian Otott sent a letter to parents, writing: “Wearing a mask is a personal choice and there is no practical way to enforce a mandate to wear them. What we will do is continue to strongly encourage all students and staff to wear masks.” He also added that “some individuals on social media are taking this photo and using it without context to criticize our school reopening efforts.”
As schools open across the country, reports of the coronavirus are coming in. One school in Indiana was open for less than a day before a positive case was confirmed; one county in Georgia had more than 200 cases, or contact cases, among district employees before students even returned to the classroom. In one Mississippi school that’s been open for about a week, 116 students have already been directed to quarantine after one student tested positive for the virus.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump relentlessly insists that schools reopen.