Was this teacher right to warn his students of their Constitutional rights?

Was this teacher right to warn his students of their Constitutional rights?

An Illinois high school teacher was punished by a local school district after he warned students about the Constitutional rights before answering a school-mandated survey about emotional and at-risk behavior.

John Dryden, a social studies teacher at Batavia High School, was issued a formal reprimand and docked a day’s pay. The punishment was doled out during a closed-door school board meeting.

The controversy started when the school district directed students to complete a survey about at-risk behavior – including past drug, tobacco and alcohol usage.

“I advised my students that they had a Fifth Amendment right not incriminate themselves,” Dryden told a local newspaper. “It was not my intention for them not to take the survey.”
Batavia School Superintendent Jack Barshinger told Fox News what the teacher did was against the rules.

“The issue before the board was whether one employee had the right to miss-characterize the efforts of teachers, counselors, social workers and others and tell students in effect that the adults are not here to help but they are trying to get you to incriminate yourself,” he said. More Here

The students and parents are rallying behind teacher, John Dryden.

A Batavia High School teacher’s fans are rallying to support him as he faces possible discipline for advising students of their Constitutional rights before taking a school survey on their behavior.

They’ve been collecting signatures on an online petition, passing the word on Facebook, sending letters to the school board, and planning to speak at Tuesday’s school board meeting.

Batavia school board disciplines teacher after survey flap

Students and parents have praised his ability to interest reluctant students in history and current affairs.

But John Dryden said he’s not the point. He wants people to focus on the issue he raised: Whether school officials considered that students could incriminate themselves with their answers to the survey that included questions about drug and alcohol use.

Students taking Action:


Bertalmio was outraged. The 2002 graduate, who took one class with Dryden, credits him with teaching him how to examine positions and make logical arguments, no matter where one stands politically.

“Back it up — give me evidence,” is what Dryden taught, Bertalmio said.

Bertalmio posted the news on Facebook, where it was noticed by fellow graduates. Parents of current students have also joined in. There are more than 1,000 signatures on the “Defend and Support John Dryden” petition at the petitionsite.com, although many seem to be repeats. He has also urged people to write letters to the Batavia school board, plans to speak at the board’s meeting, and may have a rally before the meeting. A Batavia alderman told the city council Monday he plans to attend the meeting in support, and encouraged other people to do so.


But Dryden doesn’t want this seen as him vs. the administrators. He said he knows they were acting in what they thought was the best interests of the students.

“These are good, professional, smart people on the other side who want to do what is right by kids,” he said.

He would rather focus the discussion on the survey.

“I have asked people (the supporters) to talk about the survey. I think I am a sideshow,” he said. “This (the survey) was rushed and it wasn’t vetted.”

“I’m not a martyr,” he said. “I’m trying to refocus people’s attentions. Calm down.”

Source: Daily Herald

School officials said the survey was intended to identify teens who might pose a risk to themselves and was prompted by a rash of suicides.

But Dryden said teachers and parents received only a two-paragraph description of the survey in advance, and it did not warn them that it would include students’ names. He first saw the survey about 10 minutes before his first class that day, he said.

“I looked at the questions and went, ‘Oh my gosh,'” he said. “This is a state institution collecting data. … What will they do with that? How long is it on the record? Is it going to be on the file?”

In response to Dryden’s warning to students, the school suspended him for one day without pay. On Tuesday, when the Batavia Public School District 101 board voted to reprimand Dryden, students, parents and other teachers showed up at the meeting to support him.

Fellow Batavia High teacher Scott Bayer questioned why Dryden “is the one in the stocks” when other teachers also had concerns about the survey.

“Students had questions and apprehensions,” Bayer said, “and we couldn’t provide answers.”

Board members stressed they intended to use the survey merely to identify possibly at-risk students. Officials further emphasized that there was no intent to punish students who reported using drugs or alcohol.

“The issue before the board tonight was whether one employee has the right to miss-characterize the efforts of our teachers, counselors, social workers and others, and tell our students, in effect, that the adults are not here to help but that they are trying to get you to ‘incriminate’ yourselves,” Superintendent Jack Barshinger stated in a letter to the Batavia community.

Barshinger maintained the Fifth Amendment didn’t apply to the school survey because students can’t be prosecuted for what they say on school grounds about drug or alcohol abuse. He also said that once the students’ names were printed on the surveys, they became protected “temporary school records.”

But Andrew Leipold, a professor at the University of Illinois’ College of Law, said that he, too, would have raised questions about the survey and how school officials intended to use the results.

“The court has been fairly clear that students don’t surrender all their rights at the door,” said Leipold, who described the handling of student rights as a balancing act.

Source: Chicago Tribune