A group of eighth-grade students from a New Jersey middle school was divided over whether or not to take a picture with Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) on their class trip to Washington D.C. Thursday.
The approximately 200 students from South Orange Middle School had the option to take a photo with the speaker on their class trip, but half the class sat out of the photo, citing disagreements with Ryan’s politics, WLS reported.
“I don’t want to be associated with a man who puts his party before his country,” Matthew Malespina, 13, told the Washington Post. “I don’t like to take a picture with somebody that I can’t associate with.
Malespina joined approximately 100 of his fellow students in the parking lot across the street from the U.S. Capitol while the rest of his class joined Ryan for the photo.
Miles Handelman, on the other hand, joined the other 100 in his class to pose for a picture with the speaker and had no qualms about posing for a photo with Ryan.
“I thought it would be very cool just seeing the man who is the third most powerful man in our country. It would be cool, even if you disagree with him,” Handelman said.
Parents of the children on that trip were just as divided about their kids’ decisions to sit out or join in the photo.
“Meeting our representatives is an honor for a kid… 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,” one parent told the Village Green.
Malespina’s mother, on the other hand, said she was “proud” of her son’s decision to sit out of the picture.
“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,” she said.
Ryan posted a photo to Instagram of himself giving a fist-bump to the visiting students Friday with the caption, “Got that #FridayFeeling.”
When pressed for comment about the photo, a spokesperson for Ryan simply responded, “Speaker Ryan always appreciates the opportunity to welcome students to the Capitol.”