High School Teacher Disciplined for Reminding Students of Their Rights

By:  Michael Tennant
High School Teacher Disciplined for Reminding Students of Their Rights

An Illinois high school teacher was reprimanded and docked a day's pay for reminding students that they did not have to answer potentially incriminating drug and alcohol questions on a school survey.

John Dryden was disciplined for giving his students a real-life lesson in how to apply a subject they had just studied: the Bill of Rights.

On April 18, Batavia High School in Batavia, Illinois, asked teachers to distribute a “social-emotional learning survey” to their students. “The survey is part of measuring how students meet the social-emotional learning standards set by the state,” reported the Arlington Heights Daily Herald. “It is the first year Batavia has administered such a survey.”

As if it weren’t bad enough that the school was delving into students’ personal lives, the survey — each copy of which had a student’s name printed on it — asked questions about students’ drug and alcohol use. When social studies teacher John Dryden, who had just finished teaching a unit on the Bill of Rights, was given the surveys to hand out to his class, he began reading the questions and realized there was a problem: If a student admitted to using drugs or alcohol, he could be incriminating himself, something the Fifth Amendment was designed to prevent. This, he thought, was particularly important in light of the fact that there is a police officer stationed at the school.

Having no time to check with administrators — he’d picked up the surveys 10 minutes before his first class, and they were to be administered that day — Dryden told the Herald he “made a judgment call” to remind his first three classes of their constitutional rights. (The survey was completed during the third class period.) He said he would have discussed the matter with administrators had he received the surveys or been informed of their contents in advance and that he did raise the issue with them afterward.

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