High School Teacher Faces Discipline for Informing Students About Their Rights

Source: Daily Herald

A Batavia High School teacher’s fans are rallying to support him as he faces possible discipline for advising students of their Constitutional rights before taking a school survey on their behavior.

They’ve been collecting signatures on an online petition, passing the word on Facebook, sending letters to the school board, and planning to speak at Tuesday’s school board meeting.

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.

They did provide the script teachers were to read to students before the test.

It does not tell students whether participation is mandatory or optional.

An April email communication to parents said their children could choose not to take the survey, but they had to notify the district by April 17.

The survey asked about drug, alcohol and tobacco use, and emotions, according to Brad Newkirk, chief academic officer.

The results were to be reviewed by school officials, including social workers, counselors and psychologists.

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