Teacher facing discipline for reminding students of Constitutional rights
John Dryden, a social studies teacher at Batavia High School, not far from Chicago, Illinois, told the Kane County Chronicle he was docked a day’s pay for reminding his students they have the right to not incriminate themselves before administering a drug-screening survey to the class.
The exact contents of the survey were not disclosed, but Dryden said each form was printed with a student’s name and had questions relating to drug use, alcohol consumption, and emotional tendencies. The results were to be reviewed by school officials, social workers, counselors and psychologists, according to the Chicago Daily Herald.
For advising the students of their rights guaranteed by the Constitution, Dryden was scheduled to face a closed-door meeting with school board officials on Tuesday night. He was charged with the vague count of “unprofessional conduct” and could be disciplined with a “letter of remedy” that would remain on his 20-year employment record, along with the docked pay.
Dryden said it was “dumb luck” that he examined the contents in the survey before handing them out. He said that if he had been notified about the questions, he would have consulted a school administrator over the issue.
“Somebody needs to remind them they have the ability not to incriminate themselves,” Dryden said. “I made a judgment call. There was no time to ask anyone.”
School Superintendent Jack Barshinger told the Daily Herald the survey was meant to determine which students were emotionally unstable and considering self-harm.
“We can’t help them if we aren’t aware of their needs,” he said.
A letter mailed to parents did not specify whether the survey was mandatory or optional. A petition of support, which described Dryden as an “uncharacteristically engaging educator,” attracted 4,000 signatures and pleaded with administrators to not discipline him.
“It is Mr. Dryden’s task as an educator to impart his students with the knowledge and ability to make informed choices, even if these lead to conscientious objection,” the letter read. “For the administration of Batavia High School to pursue disciplinary action against a dedicated educator, whose instruction is solely student centered is, in our opinion, an extreme lapse of professional competence.”
Through the scrutiny and media attention Dryden has maintained that the survey’s legality, not he, should be the focus of the story.
“I have asked people to talk about the survey. I think I am a sideshow,” he said. “I’m not a martyr. I’m trying to refocus people’s attentions. Calm down.”