School Walkouts as Civil Disobedience


Case PhotoPhoto Credit to Yay PDX

In the midst of the 2016 election, both high school and middle school student across the United States have begun to engage in acts of civil disobedience and protest. They have walked out in support of teacher strikes, opted out of standardized tests, kneeled during athletic events, and marched in solidarity with national movements like Black Lives Matter. 

Reactions from district officials to student demonstrations are as varied as the causes students have taken up. For good reason. These decisions require school leaders to carefully consider values like political freedom, safety and emotional well-being of the students have been explicitly or implicitly balanced.

This case, "Student Walkouts as Civil Disobedience: How Should Districts Respond?" explores the issues that arise when students are civically active through and in conflict with schools. It delves into a careful study of student walkouts in Portland, Oregon. Students from Portland Public Schools have actively engaged in walkouts as form of protest since 2008, like their national peers, tackling a range of issues. Most recently, in November, over 400 students walked out of school to protest the election of Donald Trump. 

Groups may want to use the case study discussion protocol to guide their conversation about this case. We have also developed this map and timeline; both are helpful tools for viewing the walkouts in Portland spatially and chronologically.

See one of the case authors discuss the case below!