Metro Atlanta students say photo with no masks was taken out of context

Student say viral photo of them with no masks taken out of context

FULTON COUNTY, Ga. — Dozens of high school seniors are defending their decision to pose for a class photo that showed a large group not wearing masks.

Concerned parents and teachers sent us the photo of the Westlake High School students, which was taken Friday night on campus. Westlake High School is currently participating in remote learning.

Channel 2′s Michael Sieden talked to several seniors from the Fulton County school, who didn’t want to go on camera, but said the photo was taken out of context. Students said they only took off their masks for the photo op and put them right back on afterwards.

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Seiden also got a response from the principal.

Westlake High School principal Jamar Robinson said that before the students starting gathering on campus, he had the chance to speak with one of the organizers of the photo.

The student talked about how tough it's been on them not to see their friends and teachers on a daily basis . Robinson said the kids are lonely and wanted to have some school spirit.

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“I also had the opportunity to hear our senior students’ voices about how their isolation and longing to be with their friends was the spirit behind this gathering, and not disrespect for our safety protocols,” Robinson said in a statement. “As an educator, I will take this moment as a teaching opportunity to collaborate with our students about how we can achieve exactly what they want to do and still maintain our safety protocols. "

It's unclear if any of the Westlake students have tested positive for the coronavirus.

A district spokesperson told Seiden the district understands where the kids are coming from, but right now, they are asking students not to come on campus unless the school allows it.

“We understand the emotions our students are experiencing,” the spokesperson said. “We want to join together again – when it is safe. Right now; however, we are asking students only to come to campus as part of school sanctioned events where we can assure proper safety protocols and social distancing can be maintained.”

Earlier this month, a similar photo at Etowah High School in Cherokee County with students standing shoulder-to-shoulder went viral. Since then, hundreds of students have had to quarantine and the school has been shut down until the end of the month.

North Paulding High School got national attention earlier this month after a student posted a photo of packed hallways with few students wearing masks.

Etowah High School to close until end of month due to COVID-19 outbreak