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Published On: Thu, May 30th, 2013

John Dryden, Illinois teacher, punished for informing students of their fifth amendment rights and a school survey

An Illinois high school teacher was punished by a local school district after he warned students about the Constitutional rights before answering a school-mandated survey about emotional and at-risk behavior.

Dryden, a social studies teacher at Batavia High School in Batvia, Ill., reportedly told students that they had a Fifth Amendment right not to “incriminate” themselves in the questionnaire. The mandatory survey quizzed students about various at-risk behavior, including past drug, tobacco and alcohol use.

photo Josh Janssen via Flickr

photo Josh Janssen via Flickr

“I advised my students that they had a Fifth Amendment right not incriminate themselves,” the teacher told the Kane County Chronicle. “It was not my intention for them not to take the survey.”

The school board held a closed door meeting and decided that what Dryden did was against school rules.

“The issue before the board was whether one employee had the right to mischaracterize the efforts of teachers, counselors, social workers and others and tell students in effect that the adults are not here to help but they are trying to get you to incriminate yourself,” Batavia School Superintendent Jack Barshinger told Fox News.

Barshinger told Fox News that school rules protect students from self-incrimination.

“It is not possible for a student to incriminate himself in a school setting that would make him eligible for any police action,” he said.

And while the superintendent said students “absolutely” have constitutional rights – he said there is a caveat.

“Unfortunately, it is how they are applied in a school setting,” he said. “The Fifth Amendment – you don’t typically hear about in a school setting. That’s because the law has already been set that don’t allow students to self incriminate.”

He also said parents and students were given the opportunity to opt-out of the survey.

UPDATE: The spelling of Batavia, Illinois was originally incorrect – BBJ, The Dispatch

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About the Author

- Catherine "Kaye" Wonderhouse, a proud descendant of the Wunderhaus family is the Colorado Correspondent who will add more coverage, interviews and reports from this midwest area.

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  1. Nom de plume says:

    If the school has protections for students, I can see the administrator’s point. The students, however, are not explicitly informed as to their protection against prosecution, and neither are the parents as to their children. Also, this is an educational setting, not a therapy session – parents didn’t enroll their children in the public school system so they could go see a social worker and be compelled to “reveal all” to the authorities under the guise of “loving kindness.” Students are supposed to be in school to learn about their rights under the U.S. Constitution. And they DO have a Fifth Amendment right not to participate. They also have privacy rights under other amendments that they are not being clearly and fully informed on via some minimized mention that they can “opt out” (and go figure that out without us). So I think that the teacher must be an excellent educator and the district is way out of line in “admonishing him” or “disciplining him” as an employee when he was, instead, doing his job as a teacher most admirably, providing a hands-on learning experience in government and individual civil rights, as well as teaching critical thinking. Too bad he is being punished for doing his job right.

    • Nom de Plume says:

      He is teaching students to be informed and EMPOWERED decision-makers as to their own lives. Very important at the high school level.

  2. CHRISTOPHER ALLEN HORTON says:

    SINCE HAVING A JUVENILLE CRIMINAL-RECORD HAS BECOME A MANDATORY REQUIREMENT FOR CONTEMPORARY “manhood,” John Dryden TOOK THE CORRECT APPROACH.

    MANY “inner-city” children HAVE MAMAS WHO ARE “STRUNG-OUT” ON “Crack;” MANY “inner-city” children HAVE FATHERS (OR, “mama boyfriends”) WHO OPENLY DISPLAY UNREGISTERED FIREARMS IN THE HOME. SO, IT IS A GREAT IDEA – SINCE “inner-city mamas” CAN NOT AFFORD CRIMINAL-JUSTICE COSTS – FOR CHILDREN TO KEEP THEIR MOUTHS SHUT AND AVOID “NOSY” QUESTIONS.

    CHRISTOPHER ALLEN HORTON

  3. D. Myers says:

    it’s BatAvia IL., not Batvia…

  4. Mary Leedy says:

    Ok, then why were the students given the survey in the first place??? And just exactly WHEN were they allowed to opt-out of taking it. And thre’s no gurantee there won’t be a police search in the schoo lockers of the children who mistakenly incriminate themselves??? Yeah right!

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