A high school social studies teacher in Illinois got in hot water with his local school board for… teaching students that they have Constitutional rights.
John Dryden, a 20-year veteran teacher at Batavia High School, not far from Chicago, told his class that they could not be forced to answer questions on an in-class survey about emotional and at-risk behavior. The surveys, which reportedly had students’ names printed on the documents to be filled out, included a series of queries on personal topics and about whether they engaged in drug and alcohol use.
Here’s how the school describes the survey:
Batavia High School will use the BIMAS to monitor students’ progress in the areas of social and emotional development. Results of the BIMAS will be analyzed at a building level to assist staff in planning and implementation of social emotional supports to help all students grow to their fullest potential. It is a systematic process of detecting students who are struggling behaviorally and are at-risk for experiencing a range of negative short- and long-term outcomes. If your child is found to be at risk and is not currently receiving social-emotional supports within the school, a member of the building’s Student Services Team will notify a parent to discuss options for support.
Dryden, who has garnered substantial support from students, parents and some Batavia officials, told his students they had a Constitutional right, per the 5th Amendment, not incriminate themselves with answers to the April 18 school survey. For his efforts to teach his students about their rights, Dryden told the Kane County Chronicle that school officials docked him a day’s pay.
A petition to the school’s administrators expressing disdain over the disciplinary actions had garnered more than 8,000 signatures by the writing of this article.
The petition describes Dryden as follows:
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.
The school had not previously informed students whether participation was mandatory or optional but an email to parents said their children could choose not to take the survey if they notified the district by April 17.
Per Chicago’s Daily Herald:
“Oh. Well. Ummm, somebody needs to remind them they have the ability not to incriminate themselves,” he recalled thinking. It was particularly on his mind because his classes had recently finished reviewing the Bill of Rights. And the school has a police officer stationed there as a liaison, he pointed out. [A school official] said the results weren’t shared with police.
“I made a judgment call. There was no time to ask anyone,” Dryden said. If the survey had been handed out a day or two before, he said, he would have talked to an administrator about his concern.
Instead, he gave the warning to his first-, second- and third-block classes. The test was given to all students during third block.
He suspects it was a teacher who told the administration about what Dryden had done, after the other teacher had trouble getting all the students to take the survey.
Just to be clear, the National Council for the Social Sciences social studies as “the integrated study of the social sciences and humanities to promote civic competence.” One would be forced to conclude that, by giving his students a real-world opportunity to realize the importance of their Constitutional rights, Dryden has proven himself an ideal social studies educator.
Of course, maybe the school’s administrators just wanted to know if they could frame any autistic students for peddling dope, like those fine educators over at Chaparral High School in Temecula, Calif.