I posted a link to this blog on social media with the provocative (but not inaccurate) title "Why students participating in the walkout today ought to be punished." A few people expressed puzzlement and a few expressed outrage, so I thought I'd explain.
Pondiscio's point is easily summarized with this quote: "By its very nature, an act of civil disobedience means the protester refuses to comply with rule, norms, and expectations.”
Pondiscio goes farther than I would, saying that “compliance rob[s] the protest of any meaning,” and Andy Rotherham seems to agree in his own blog, saying that if students know in advance a walkout is consequence-free “it’s theater.” I think it's still meaningful to show support, but I don’t see how you can argue that it’s an act of civil disobedience or a walkout.
Rotherham touches on another theme that I agree with: adults coordinating the walkout, seeking ways to make it easy and "safe" for kids, fits a more general pattern of adults today exercising too much control over kids' lives, and keeping them safe in ways that ultimately backfire. (Watch for Greg Lukianoff and Jon Haidt's book on this subject, The Coddling of the American Mind.)
Both Pondiscio and Rotherham made another point that I found much more telling, and is the reason I thought the blog worth sharing: teachers and administrators allowing students to attend walkouts sets a terrible precedent.
My concern is that educators who suspended the usual consequences for students missing class did so because they agreed with the cause of the protesters. I do too, but it seems pretty clear that I can’t suspend a policy only for causes I agree with. So what happens when people want to cut class not to protest gun violence, but to support gun owners rights, or to lower the drinking age, or to show support for Nancy Pelosi or Donald Trump? “Slippery slope” arguments often make me roll my eyes, but in this case, I think it’s apt. Are students to be allowed to walk out of classes for any protest? (I imagine middle-school me, at the pizza place during math class, telling the vice principal between bites "This is the way I protest congressional inaction on term limits.")
Maybe there's a good argument for educators taking the role of sanctioning or punishing protests based on their content. I haven't heard it.