While on a field trip to Washington DC on Thursday, around 100 eighth-graders refused to take a picture with Paul Ryan, the Republican House Speaker.
The students belonged to South Orange Middle School in South Orange, New Jersey. A local TV station described the town as “a progressive, upper middle class community.”
A total of around 200 students travelled to Washington DC, where they only found out a night before their scheduled visit to Capitol Hill that they would be meeting the man who is third in line to the presidency. What many would consider to be an opportunity of a lifetime, half the students considered to be an embarrassment of sorts.
Matthew Malespina was one of the students who opted out of the picture session. He also texted his mother as soon as he found out.
“I’m just not going to do it,” Matthew told his mom, Elissa Malespina, in a text message.
A public school librarian, who wasn’t present on the field trip, Ellisa Malespina replied, “Say you would rather not.”
She later turned to Facebook, where she reportedly bragged about her son’s decision.
“I’m proud of him, and I’m proud of the other students that chose to exercise their constitutional rights and did so in a respectful manner,” Elissa Malespina wrote.
Matthew Malespina is of the belief that “it’s not just a picture,” when it comes to getting the chance to appear with an elected official.
“It’s being associated with a person who puts his party before his country,” he said. “The point was, I don’t want to be associated with him, and his policies and what he stands for.”
Around 100 students, including Matthew, stood across the street, refusing to take the picture as the other 100 posed with Paul Ryan on the steps of the US Capitol. According to a local news outlet, Ryan had absolutely no idea that only half the students were taking the picture with him.
A spokesman for Paul Ryan, while speaking to the Washington Post on Sunday, said that the House Speaker “always appreciates the opportunity to welcome students to the Capitol.”