Teacher's Fifth Amendment advice to students gets him in trouble

By Kristen Butler,
High school students. (File/UPI/Olivier Douliery/Pool)
High school students. (File/UPI/Olivier Douliery/Pool) | License Photo

An Illinois Social Studies teacher faces disciplinary action for reminding his students of their Fifth Amendment rights when filling out a school survey on behavior, according to the Daily Herald.

John Dryden was collecting the surveys before class when he noticed the students' names were printed on them. He looked to see what was being asked and noticed questions about alcohol and drug use.


Dryden told his students that they had a Constitutional right to not incriminate themselves by answering questions on the survey.

School district officials said the survey was purchased from a private company, Multi-Health Systems Inc., and was intended to measure how students meet the social-emotional learning standards set by the state. It was the first time Batvia High School administered such a test, and officials said surveys would not be turned over to law enforcement.

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The results were to be reviewed by school officials, social workers, counselors and psychologists to "screen" students to figure out who needs help. "We can't help them if we aren't aware of their needs," said Superintendent Jack Barshinger.

Dryden had warned all three of his classes, and when the survey was given at the end of the day, other teachers noticed students were refusing to take the survey. Dryden suspects one of these teachers told administrators he had advised students.


The school board will decide Tuesday whether to issue a letter of remedy to Dryden, which could have consequences up to dismissal according to state law.

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"These are good, professional, smart people on the other side who want to do what is right by kids," Dryden said. "This [survey] was rushed and it wasn't vetted." Current and former students and parents have rallied support on social media ahead of the open school board meeting.

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