A social studies teacher at Batavia High School in Illinois is facing disciplinary action after he advised students to consider their Constitutional right against self-incrimination before answering a school survey on their behavior.
Teacher John Dryden is facing disciplinary action from the school board for unprofessional conduct after reminding students of their 5th Amendment right before answering the April 15 survey. The surveys, which had each student’s name printed on them, asked questions about drug, alcohol and tobacco use.
Dryden says the issue is whether school officials considered that filling out the survey is a form of self-incrimination.
Students and parents who support Dryden started an online petition to “Defend and Support” Dryden. The petition calls Dryden an “uncharacteristically engaging educator who sees it his duty to make his students aware of their rights as citizens.”
“He encourages critical thinking, problem solving strategies, and educational stewardship from all of his students. His learning objectives go beyond mandated standards and bring student awareness to real-world concerns,” the petition says. “If it is Batava Schools’ mission to be 'Always Learning, Always Growing', then that mission is embodied by the rigor and passion of Mr. John Dryden.”
This was the first year the Batavia school district administered this survey. They declined to provide a copy of the survey or the script teachers are meant to read from to The Daily Herald.
The surveys were meant to be reviewed by school officials, including social workers, counselors and psychologists.
Chief academic officer Brad Newkirk said the survey asked about tobacco, alcohol and drug use as well as emotions. He said it is not meant to be a diagnostic tool, but that it was a “screener” to identify students who would need specific help.
“We can’t help them if we aren’t aware of their needs,” school superintendent Jack Barshinger said. He said teacher support for the survey stems from recent student suicides.
Dryden said he read the survey before giving it to students because he noticed each had a student name printed on them, unlike surveys in the past.
"I made a judgment call. There was no time to ask anyone," Dryden said. He picked up the surveys the day they were supposed to be completed. If he had more time, he said, he would have taken up the issue with an administrator.
As the petition says, Dryden is not in danger of losing his job, rather he will be issued a “letter of remedy” that will go in his file. The letter indicated Dryden exhibited improper conduct that could have led to dismissal.