8th-grader who refused photo with Paul Ryan defends decision in op-ed

Greg Nash

An eighth-grade student who decided to sit out a group photo last month with Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) penned an op-ed on Monday, saying she decided she was not going to be used as a “publicity stunt.”

The eighth-grade student at South Orange Middle School, Jordan McCray-Robinson, wrote an op-ed published Monday in The Village Green, a local New Jersey newspaper, defending her decision. The student said many schools visit Washington each year, but “our trip was different.”

“Our 8th grade had the opportunity to take a picture with the Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan,” she wrote in the piece.

{mosads}”The 8th graders also had the option not to participate and I decided not to take the picture as did with many others of my grade. I decided I wasn’t going to be used as a publicity stunt.”
Nearly 100 eighth-grade students from New Jersey decided to sit out the group photo opportunity last month with Ryan during a class trip to Washington.
The students from South Orange Middle School who declined to take part in the picture opted to sit in a parking lot while their peers took part in the photo op.
Ryan posted the photo on her Instagram page.
McCray-Robinson in the op-ed cited comments posted on Ryan’s Instagram photo, in which the students who chose not to take part in the photo were criticized as “losers” who were “brainwashed.”
“I am here to tell the nation that although we’re only in the 8th grade, we have our own thoughts and opinions,” McCray-Robinson wrote.
She said her teachers did not influence her decision not take part in the photo.
“I decided I didn’t want to take a picture with someone who doesn’t have my best interests in mind,” she said.
“Mr. Ryan and the administration want to cut health care for 23 million people. Am I one of those U.S citizens that will be affected?”
McCray-Robinson added that she spoke with other students of different backgrounds who explained why they made the decision to sit out or take part in the photo.
Some students explained they posed for the photo even though they did not necessarily support the policies of Ryan and the Trump administration, she wrote.
“I, for one, think it’s ridiculous for adults to shame kids for being politically aware and not being afraid to express ourselves,” she wrote.
“I think it’s not only rude, but ignorant to tell a 14 year old that they’re not entitled to an opinion because ‘kids have no experience in the real world, so who should care about what they think or say.'”
McCray-Robinson questioned why she was being criticized for showing how she feels about the current administration.

“I will not tolerate my peers and I being shamed for voicing our opinions,” she wrote. “My generation is the future. I will be working and living in a society created by today’s decisions. So why shouldn’t I be able to speak my truth?”

–This report was updated on June 6 at 5:50 a.m.

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