Group photo of Georgia 3rd grade class without masks sparks controversy

A group picture of a third-grade class at Liberty Elementary School in the Cherokee County School District is getting criticism from some parents. 

The picture shows the class standing in a group without masks on. 

"I was blown away. I was very upset," said Alexandra Smith, a parent. 

Smith said she asked her son several times the story behind the picture. 

"I went to my son and said 'what is this? Why isn't your mask on?' He said 'she wanted to see our smiles.' So I said, 'did you take it off or did she tell you?' And he said 'she did.'" 

Sign up for FOX 5 email alerts

The school doesn't require students to wear a mask but Smith's 8-year-old was instructed to do so by her. 

Smith said she opted for in-person learning for her two kids because she trusted the schools and the Cherokee County School District would keep them as safe as possible. 


Third-grade class at Liberty Elementary School in the Cherokee County School District poses for a group photo (FOX 5 Atlanta).

"To have an adult tell my son to take his PPE off for a picture after I spent time after time explaining to him, 'Cash this is important. Keep this on, only take it off to eat,'" Smith said. 

Smith initially posted this picture on Reddit. 

She said many fellow parents were just as surprised and disappointed, which is what is pushing her to make sure the school and district know changes need to be made. 

Smith said she's pulling both of her children out of in-person learning and contacting the Board of Education to make sure her children are able to enroll in their school's digital learning. 

RELATED: More students quarantined; some Cherokee County parents try to switch to digital learning

However, not all parents see it this way. Lauren P's son is in the class as well. 

She asked FOX 5 to not use her full last name. 

"We were given a choice. We could go back to school in person face to face or we could or we could choose digitally. If you didn't feel safe sending your child to school, they gave you that option. They've given you everything you need so they can succeed at home," she said. 

Download the FOX 5 Atlanta app for breaking news and weather alerts.

As for the issue of masks, she points out the kids are not breaking any rules by not wearing them. 

She said everyone should respect the individual decisions made by the parents. 

"I did not send my son to school with a mask and that is our personal choice. So I don't feel it's fair that other students and parents are attacking our children for what they chose. My son doesn't go around saying oh you have a mask on. So we shouldn't be made fun of because we're not wearing a mask," she said. 

The Cherokee County School District sent FOX 5 a statement that reads: 

"We do not support staff members directing students to take off their masks or requiring students to put on masks; wearing a mask is a decision to be made by a student’s parents.  This specific incident has been addressed with the involved staff by their supervisor, as will any other incidents reported by parents to the child’s school.  We are strongly encouraging and recommending all students wear masks inside the school and on buses and are providing all students with two reusable masks."