Paulding Co. principal threatens punishment for students who share school pics on social media

Paulding Co. principal threatens punishment for students who share school pics on social media

PAULDING COUNTY, Ga. — The student who shared pictures of a crowded school hallway in Paulding County has been suspended. Channel 2 Action News first showed you the photo on Tuesday.

We’ve learned that staff told students they could be punished but only after the photo went viral on social media.

[Viral pictures of few students wearing masks amid COVID-19 pandemic puts metro school in spotlight]

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Paulding Superintendent Brian Otott says the photo was taken out of context to criticize the school’s re-opening.

The school district says while it is encouraging students to wear masks, it is not requiring students to wear them and says it can’t enforce it if it did.

An announcement was made at North Paulding High School that the school district is enforcing discipline for students who share pictures like the one that’s gone viral.

The student who took the now-viral photo, identified only has Hannah, has been suspended.

Earlier this week, Channel 2 Action News obtained a letter sent to parents from Otott.

"There is no question that the photo does not look good. I can understand if your first reaction was one of concern," Otott said in the letter.

The superintendent said the photo circulating on social media has been taken out of context.

“Some individuals on social media are taking this photo and using it without context to criticize our school reopening efforts,” Otott said. “Under the COVID-19 protocols we have adopted, class changes that look like this may happen, especially at a high school with more than 2,000 students.”

The superintendent said the district has more than 33,000 students who are currently learning in person and virtually and that they anticipated adjustments will be needed.

"The Department of Public Health state exposure to COVID-19 occurs after 'Being within 6 feet of sick person with COVID-19 for about 15 minutes," Otott said.

“One area where we have received a good deal of feedback is mask use in our schools. 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.”

Can a school punish students for taking pictures? A legal expert weighs in