Jan. 6 Capitol chaos prompts social science class, non-partisan JSA club discussions over Zoom — many blaming Trump for the insurrection

A+view+of+the+Capitol+rotunda+taken+in+November+2019+during+the+National+Scholastic+Press+Association%27s+fall+journalism+convention+in+Washington%2C+D.C.+A+mob+--+some+carrying+the+American+flag+and+wearing+pro-President+Donald+Trump+caps+--+broke+into+the+building+Jan.+6+while+congressional+leaders+were+trying+to+certify+the+Electoral+College+vote+counts+favoring+President-elect+Joe+Biden.

Accolade file photo

A view of the Capitol rotunda taken in November 2019 during the National Scholastic Press Association’s fall journalism convention in Washington, D.C. A mob — some carrying the American flag and wearing pro-President Donald Trump caps — broke into the building Jan. 6 while congressional leaders were trying to certify the Electoral College vote counts favoring President-elect Joe Biden.

By Alice Shin, Sunny Hills High School

Accolade staff writers Rida Fatima and Krishna Thaker and Opinion editor Hope Li contributed to this story.

While some teachers in their Zoom sessions have addressed last week’s historic Capitol building chaos that has led to five deaths — including one police officer — and more than 70 people arrested as of Jan. 12, the issue was also a hot topic among the non-partisan political club, Junior Statesmen of America [JSA].

“We talked about it on Thursday [Jan. 7] for a long time and have discussed it on other days [thereafter],” said Sunny Hills social science teacher Greg Del Crognale, who teaches American Government and Advanced Placement [AP] Macroeconomics this semester.

Despite seeing images of the pro-President Donald Trump mob breaking into the Capitol building and sitting in congressional leaders’ offices, Del Crognale placed the blame on Trump and some in the Republican party for what many in the media have called an insurrection.

“My first reaction was that I was upset and horrified, but not shocked,” he said. “The president had been telling the public that Jan. 6 was going to be wild, so I was expecting something was going to happen.

“To begin to fix this situation, would be to begin to arrest and try in court all of the individuals who participated in the riot/insurrection. The president and members of Congress … also need to tell the public that they have been lying about the election results [being rigged]. If the president and other Republican leaders do not make these public announcements, we will continue to be divided as a nation. I’m not optimistic that the president and the Republican leaders will do the right thing.”

Senior Hanna Lee, who’s in Del Crognale’s third period AP Macroeconomics class, said she didn’t mind that her teacher chose to provide a discussion opportunity for her and her peers to talk about what happened in the nation’s capital.

“I think it is necessary because what happened is history,” Lee said. “We are living in a very crucial time in America so ignoring it will be odd in my opinion.”

Senior Manshaa Verma also felt that the Capitol building riot was an appropriate subject to talk about in her third period AP Government class taught by Peter Karavedas.

“I liked that he brought it up since he is my government teacher, so all the stuff happening right now is very interesting to talk about, and I don’t think teachers should ignore stuff like this because it’s a domestic terror attack,” Verma said.

The senior recalled Karavedas telling her and her classmates that neither political parties should be blamed for the extremists’ actions on Jan. 6, especially in light of the fact that leaders from both sides condemned the riot as opposing American ideals and a threat to the republic.

“I think [this topic] will be addressed more regardless as we move through the semester, especially because of the upcoming Inauguration Day and the prospect of a second impeachment for the current sitting president,” Verma said Wednesday morning before the House voted later in the day to impeach Trump  a second time. “Inciting an attack against the Capitol [building] is a huge misdemeanor so I think [Trump] should be impeached.”

JAN. 13 HOUSE IMPEACHMENT REACTION

The House’s latest action against Trump reflected the results of The Accolade’s online survey in which 62% of the 178 who voted agreed that the president should be impeached.

While acknowledging that protests are reasonable in some cases, senior Christian Campos said he sided with the 232 congressional leaders — 10 of them Republicans — who approved one article of impeachment of the president for “high crimes and misdemeanors” in connection with the Jan. 6 siege of the Capitol building where Congress meets.

“I think Americans storming the Capitol would make lots of sense for plenty of reasons — the lack of stimulus [checks], lack of rent freeze during lockdown, horrible management of the pandemic, brutal systemic racism and so on,” Campos said. “But doing it because you want to overturn a democratic election is a no.”

Some of Campos’ peers felt otherwise.

Although sophomore Esther Procaccini said she disapproves of the Capitol building breach, the House should not have impeached Trump because he will be out of office soon.

“I don’t think the impeachment issue needs to be discussed [in school Zoom sessions] because students would’ve gotten into an argument,” Procaccini said.

Senior Josh Beutter, who identifies as a conservative, said he was against this breach but likes Trump as a president because of his policies, adding that he sees Democratic party impeachment efforts as a mistake.

“It’s really stupid to be honest; he’s going to be out of office in less than eight days, and they’re still pushing for his removal from office,” Beutter said. “I just think all of it is dumb.

“I’m against it because there was nothing for him to be impeached over this time. … Even last time there was nothing, but this time they made up an accusation and decided to roll with it. Absolutely obscene.”

JSA LEADERS AND MEMBERS REFLECT ON CAPITOL CHAOS

JSA leaders said they had originally planned for their first weekly meeting of 2021 on Jan. 8 to be a “thought talk” about the death penalty. Instead, the Capitol chaos two days earlier caused them to reconsider their topic.

“We thought more people would be interested in discussing that instead of the death penalty,” said junior Manishi Jayasuriya, JSA’s secretary.

Though the 1:30-2 p.m. Zoom session started with 10 members, it eventually attracted an estimated 15 more students — many of whom expressing disapproval of and anger toward the president.

“I think [the meeting] went well,” Jayasuriya  said. “We got a pretty good turnout and had people who rarely spoke at meetings speak that day and were able to get a lot of discussions and reflect on the event.”

Among those speaking out was senior Andrew Miller.

“I heard those protesters actually saying — they had the audacity to say — ‘I can’t breathe,’ within their crowd of protests, and yes this is all Trump’s fault; he completely started this,” Miller said during the meeting. “He’s been gaslighting this thing for about three months now, and like these past three months, he’s shown his true colors that he only cares about himself really; he doesn’t care about America.”

Junior Malini Pandey said after the JSA meeting that she’s optimistic about what the new administration will bring to a polarized country.

“I don’t know if Biden can bring healing to the whole country,” said Pandey, JSA’s junior president. “I think maybe he can work on undoing all of the mess that Trump caused.”

This story was originally published on The Accolade on January 14, 2021.