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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Illinois Teacher Faces Disciplinary Action For Informing Students Of Their Constitutional Rights

By Susan Duclos

A Batavia High School teacher, John Dryden, is facing disciplinary action from school officials for informing his students they had a 5th Amendment right not to incriminate themselves, before he handed out a school survey asking about about drug, alcohol and tobacco use, and emotions.

The results, with the students names would then be handed over to school officials, including social workers, counselors and psychologists.

In the script the school gave Dryden to read to the students before the tests, it did not inform the students whether participation is mandatory or optional.

Students and parents have praised his ability to interest reluctant students in history and current affairs.

But John Dryden said he's not the point. He wants people to focus on the issue he raised: Whether school officials considered that students could incriminate themselves with their answers to the survey that included questions about drug and alcohol use.

Dryden, a social studies teacher, told some of his students April 18 that they had a 5th Amendment right to not incriminate themselves by answering questions on the survey, which had each student's name printed on it.

The survey is part of measuring how students meet the social-emotional learning standards set by the state. It is the first year Batavia has administered such a survey.

School district officials declined to provide a copy of the survey to the Daily Herald, saying the district bought the survey from a private company, Multi-Health Systems Inc., and the contents are proprietary business information.

According to the petition, found here, Dryden is not in danger of being terminated but was disciplined for "unprofessional conduct."

The petition now has 4,118 signatures, at the moment.

Petition text below:

We, the concerned public, are writing in response to notification that disciplinary action has been taken against Mr. John Dryden, educator at Batavia High School. We urge the Board to ensure that his employment and professional impact with Batavia Public Schools continues.

Recently, Mr. Dryden was disciplined by Batavia High School’s administration for unprofessional conduct and we believe this to be an unjustified action. 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. 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.

John Dryden is a 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. 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.

We respectfully request that the Board does not consent to the disciplinary action taken against Mr. John Dryden.

What have our public schools come to where a teacher, obviously liked by his students and their parents,  is facing disciplinary action for informing, teaching those very students that they have constitutional rights?