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Teacher Takes a Stand Against "Incriminating" Drug Survey

John Dryden could be penalized for informing students of their 5th Amendment right to skip drug/alcohol questions.

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John Dryden is all about students' rights
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By Victoria Kim

05/28/13

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A high school social studies teacher in Batavia, Illinois could face disciplinary action for informing students of their Fifth Amendment right to skip self-incriminating questions about drug and alcohol use in a school survey. John Dryden first saw the surveys ten minutes before his first class on April 18, and says the questions about drug and alcohol use concerned him, especially after he had recently finished reviewing the Bill of Rights with his classes. "Somebody needs to remind them they have the ability not to incriminate themselves," he recalls thinking at the time. This is the first year Batavia has administered such a survey, which was distributed to help measure how students meet the "social-emotional learning standards" set by the state. It was not a diagnostic tool, but a "screener" to detect which students might need specific help, says Brad Newkirk, the school's chief academic officer. It wasn't made clear to students whether participation was mandatory or optional, but parents had been notified via email that their children could opt out of the survey if the district was given 24-hour advanced notice. The survey results were to be reviewed by school social workers, counselors, and psychologists—but not law enforcement, according to superintendent Jack Barshinger. But Dryden noted that a police officer was stationed at the school the day the tests were given. The school board is set to discuss the matter today. But though Dryden faces having a "letter of remedy" placed on his employment file, he is reportedly not in danger of being terminated. Nearly 5,000 people have signed an online petition asking the school board not to penalize him.

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