Student Walkouts: Responding to Civil Disobedience

Student WalkoutsSnapshot: This case explores the dilemmas that emerge when students in Portland, Oregon walk out of school to protest the election of Donald Trump.


Case Description: High school and middle school students across the United States are engaging in increasingly frequent 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--and for good reason, as 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, tackling a range of issues. In November 2016, for example, 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.

Additional Resources:

  • We have developed this map and timeline to help understand the walkouts in Portland spatially and chronologically.
  • A useful guide to historical and contemporary examples of youth civic activism in schools can be found in this article from the Atlantic.

See one of the case authors discuss the case below!