About half the students in a group of South Orange Middle School 8th graders touring the Capitol in D.C. this past week refused a photo with House Speaker Paul Ryan, according to students on the field trip.
Elissa Malespina, a school librarian who is also the parent of a SOMS eighth grader, reported that her son was among the students who declined to pose with Ryan for a photo.
“I am so proud of my son and 1/2 the 8th grade at South Orange Middle School,” Malespina wrote on Facebook. “They went to D.C. on a field trip and toured the Capitol building. The kids had a chance to have their picture taken with Paul Ryan and over half the class choose not to, including my son! What a powerful statement.”
The kids said that their reasons were philosophical and moral — and not fueled by partisan politics.
“I think that taking the picture represents that you agree with the same political views and I don’t agree with his political views so I chose not to be in it,” said Wendy Weeks, an 8th grade SOMS student.
“I can’t take a picture with someone who supports a budget that would destroy public education and would leave 23 million people without healthcare,” said 8th grade SOMS student Matthew Malespina.
“I didn’t want to be in [the picture] because he believes in most of what Trump believes in,” said another SOMS 8th grader, Louisa Maynard-Parisi.
Many locals expressed support for the students on social media, although some had reservations.
“I’m sort of torn on this (although each kid has the right to make this choice),” wrote one SOMA resident. “Even though I totally disagree with everything he stands for, he is a legitimately elected official and represents our government at work. Meeting our representatives is an honor for a kid–at least for what the office stands for (even if the person occupying that chair is less than honorable). And I do feel if there had been some conservative school where the kids refused to pose with President Obama, we would have been appalled by that.”
Matthew’s mom said she supported her son’s decision. “I am proud of my son and all the other students who choose to respectfully chose not to participate in the photograph with Speaker Ryan,” wrote Elissa Malespina, in a message to Village Green. “My son does not believe in the policies that Speaker Ryan believes and does not want to be associated in any way with him or his policies. It is his right as a citizen to do so and I commend him and his fellow students for doing so in a respectful way. Listen to the children they get it.”
This story will be updated should we obtain quotes from students who opted to participate in the photo.