High School Teacher Faces Discipline for Informing Students About Their RightsJacob Sullum
May. 28, 2013
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Update: Batavia school board disciplines teacher after survey flap: School board says he ‘mischaracterized’ intentions of surveyA high school social studies teacher in Batavia, Illinois, faces disciplinary action for informing students of their Fifth Amendment rights in connection with a survey asking about illegal drug use. The survey, ostensibly aimed at assessing the needs of students at Batavia High School, was distributed on April 18. After picking up the survey forms from his mailbox about 10 minutes before his first class of the day, John Dryden noticed that they had students' names on them and that they asked about drinking and drug use, among other subjects. Dryden, who had just finished teaching a unit on the Bill of Rights, worried that students might feel obliged to incriminate themselves--an especially ticklish situation given the police officer stationed at the school. Since there was no time to confer with administrators, he says, he decided to tell his students that they did not have to complete the forms if doing so involved admitting illegal behavior. Tomorrow the school board will consider whether and how to punish Dryden for taking advantage of this teachable moment. The Batavia Daily Herald reports that "Dryden faces having a 'letter of remedy' placed in his employment file," which "could have consequences up to dismissal." Dryden's supporters are collecting signatures on a petition asking the board to refrain from disciplining him.