"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.
Dryden said it was just "dumb luck" he learned about the contents. He picked up surveys from his mailbox about 10 minutes before his first class. Seeing students' names on them, unlike past surveys, he started reading the 34 questions.
"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. Barshinger 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.
But he had also spoken afterward with administrators about the questions. "So I was already on the radar," he said.
Dryden faces having a "letter of remedy" placed in his employment file. He said this week he is negotiating the matter with district authorities.
Only a school board can issue a letter of remedy, which informs teachers their conduct was improper and could have consequences up to dismissal, according to state law."
It is perhaps the height of irony that it is a social studies teacher who is under threat of dismissal for using a 'teachable moment' to educate his students about their civil liberties. Maybe someone should explain to the school board that 'the height of irony' doesn't equate to 'a good thing'...
Tip of the cap to S.W.
Tip of the cap to S.W.