We can exercise our constitutional rights in a variety of ways. We are free to protest, we have the right to vote, and for these eigth graders, they have the right to not take a photo with House Speaker Paul Ryan.
While on a school trip to Washington D.C. a class of 218 students from South Orange Middle School in New Jersey had the chance to take a photo with Ryan when he joined them outside the capitol on Thursday. Right away, dozens of the students declined.
The students reportedly stood across the street while Ryan took a photo with their classmates. Their act of civil disobedience was picked up first by local news website, the Village Green, and has been drawing national attention.
A number of the students have since been interviewed about their choice. They offered some well-reasoned answers.
One of the students, Matthew Malespina, candidly called Ryan "a man who puts his party before his country," adding that he disagreed with the health care policies of the speaker and his party. His conclusion seemed pretty straight forward. “Let’s say somebody is not nice to me at school, for example. I wouldn’t take a picture with them, probably," he told The Washington Post.
“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 another student, Wendy Weeks.
Fellow classmate, Sophia Kraiker, told The Washington Post that she refused to take the photo because Ryan is “shadowing Trump’s ideas.”
Matthew’s mother, a public school librarian, expressed her thoughts about her son's choice in a Facebook post saying, "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." She expanded on her thoughts in a message to the 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," Malespina continued. "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."