SOUTH ORANGE AND MAPLEWOOD, NJ - The South Orange Middle School (SOMS) eighth-grade class took a school trip to Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, May 24 and Thursday, May 25. As part of the trip, the students were invited to take a photo with Speaker of the House Paul Ryan.

Multiple eighth-grade students reported that they chose not to be included in the photo with Ryan, with reports estimating about one-third to one-half of the class declined to be included in the photo.

Ryan, a Republican, has record-low approval ratings across party lines, with a Pew Research study in April stating that just 29% of Americans approve of Ryan's performance.

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"It wasn't to disrespect or offend anyone. It was simply the fact that I didn't want to be associated with Ryan," said Molly Sandler, one of the eighth-graders who chose not to be in the photo.

Various news outlets reported on the middle schoolers choice to not pose with Ryan, including The Washington Post, The Daily Mail and People magazine.

Ryan posted a photo of the SOMS students on his Instagram account @speakerryan on Friday, May 26, with the caption, "Got that #FridayFeeling," which received more than 1,500 comments, many from SOMS students, which was significantly more comments than his previous Instagram posts received.

John J. Ramos, Sr., Superintendent of South Orange Maplewood School District (SOMSD), addressed the photo in an email to the (SOMSD community on Monday night, May 29, which reads as follows:

"SOMSD has been in the press over the past few days after Speaker of the House Congressman Paul Ryan posted a picture of himself with a group of South Orange Middle School eighth-grade students who were on a field trip to Washington D.C.

Some students chose to participate in the photo on the steps of the Capitol, and others chose not to participate and waited quietly across the street with an administrator until the photo op concluded.

While we should all respectfully and appropriately acknowledge those in authority, taking a conscientious position about a photo op is within our constitutional right. We are proud of all of our students, who exercised their rights and chose whether or not to participate for their own individual reasons.

It seems that our collective focus needs to be on more substantive issues, such as the proposed budget and various matters that are silently unfolding."

Editor's note: Molly Sandler is the daughter of Anna Sandler, editor of TAPinto SOMA.

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