PAULDING COUNTY, Ga. - A viral photo of students at North Paulding High School has sparked national outrage.
In the image, dozens of students were seen in a crowded hallway with many of them not wearing masks.
The controversial picture has gone viral nationwide, as millions head back to school amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) said the Paulding County school district suspended two students for sharing the picture online and threatened others not to do the same.
"We share the outrage expressed by people across the country at these wrongful suspensions, and urge the school district to immediately reverse and remove them from the students' records," the SPLC said. "Children do not waive their constitutional rights in school, and the district abused its discretion in suspending these students."
On Friday morning one of the students, named Hannah, from North Paulding High School tweeted that the school called and notified her that they "deleted" her suspension.
Paulding County Schools confirmed through a statement sent to FOX 5 that both of the suspensions of both students had been "rescinded."
"Following a review of a situation at North Paulding High School that resulted in the suspension of two students, the principal of NPHS notified the students today that their suspensions have been rescinded and all records of the suspensions deleted. The school district’s policy is to not comment on specific student discipline matters. However, due to significant national interest in the issue at North Paulding High School, parents of both students granted the district permission to confirm that the suspensions have been rescinded"
Students in Paulding County are not required to wear a mask, but are encouraged to do so.
State Superintendent Richard Woods released a statement on return to school concerns:
“As the school year begins, schools across our state are working hard to serve students, whether virtually or in-person. They are implementing intensive protocols to keep their students, teachers, and staff safe and I am deeply appreciative of their efforts.
We have heard concerns in these opening days that I wish to address. First, we have received many questions about hallway transitions and class changes. Our reopening guidelines developed in partnership with the Georgia Department of Public Health lay out strategies schools can use to limit the number of students congregating during transitions, including staggered class changes and hallway flow paths. While these are recommendations and not mandates, we do strongly suggest that schools consider implementing these strategies.
Additionally, while the use of face coverings/masks is not mandated by the state, it is strongly recommended in settings where social distancing is difficult to accomplish – including hallway transitions. Local school districts do have the authority to require face coverings as part of their dress code policy.
We have also heard concerns about students disciplined for sharing photos taken at school. To be very clear, discipline decisions are constitutionally the purview of local boards of education. With that said, I want to encourage our districts and schools to operate with transparency, and to ensure that students and staff are not penalized for expressing their concerns.
I recognize that this situation is brand-new for everyone navigating it. We are forging this path together, and the Georgia Department of Education continues to stand in support of Georgia’s school leaders, teachers, students, parents, and families.”
Hannah said she would be able to return to school Monday. She thanked people who have supported her.