Teacher In Trouble After Reminding Students Of Their Constitutional Rights

Apparently, there are now “The Constitution need not apply here” signs hanging over the schoolhouse doors these days:

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.

Why students are being asked these questions is, of course, an entirely separate issue. On the surface, though, I don’t see what was wrong with Dryden reminding his students that they do, in the end, have a right to remain silent.

FILED UNDER: Education, Quick Takes
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Andy says:

    I’ve taken a lot of survey’s similar to this one, but they’ve all been anonymous. Who is the dumbass that thought they would get accurate answers to a survey where answers are associated with individuals?

  2. @Andy:

    A school administrator

  3. I must say this is pretty outrageous.

  4. Tony W says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Indeed, public schools are ground zero for “Zero Tolerance” which is tough-guy speak for “don’t make us think”.

  5. Hal 10000 says:

    Ah, piece of zero tolerance “policy”. I’m not sure if their objection is that he diverged from the script or that he reminded students that they have Constitutional rights, since the authorities seem to hold those in contempt as well.

    Also, is it just me or does Dryden look like the Dude from the Big Lebowski. If so, this aggression can not stand.

  6. Tillman says:

    This aggression will not stand, man!

    I recall as a student taking these surveys once every two grades, but they did not have names printed on them and there was no space to fill in a name. Moreover, the proctors of such surveys always reminded us that these were completely anonymous surveys. I think the teacher’s in the right on this one.

  7. Tyrell says:

    Some of the tests we took in the past had surveys attached that asked questions about things like hours spent at home on reading, homework, and watching television. Some teachers told students that they did not have to answer them. Some of us put down crazy answers to try and mess up their numbers.
    Is there not a right to have edible food in the school lunchroom?

  8. frank k. says:

    John Dryden ( you silly serf ) , don’t you realize that only the Lois Lerner’s of the world qualify for 5th amendment protection (after they shred and trample all over various amendment rights of you, and your friends ? ) .. FK (N.Va.)

  9. PJ says:

    @Tillman:

    I recall as a student taking these surveys once every two grades, but they did not have names printed on them and there was no space to fill in a name. Moreover, the proctors of such surveys always reminded us that these were completely anonymous surveys.

    That’s because they compare the handwriting to earlier tests afterwards.

    Refuse to take any survey that’s not multiple choice and always use the hand you normally don’t write with.

    😉

  10. copper says:

    I agree that they do not have to take the survey but I don’t believe it has anything to do with the 5th amendment. That is for civil/criminal proceedings where you may be subjected to penalties. Taking a survey would not.
    Simply hand it back with a polite no thank you would suffice. The school has no more right to know your answers to those kind of questions than they would to know the color of your underwear.

  11. anjin-san says:

    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.

    Not sure this passes the smell test. We are talking about a public school. Parents, taxpayers, and the public at large are interested parties as to what goes on there. I don’t really give a crap about any claim to privacy a vendor might make.

  12. Robert in SF says:

    I was under the impression that certain rights disappeared for students once they were enrolled, much less past the threshold of the entry…such as locker room searches, drug sniffing dogs, and fighting off-school grounds/outside school hours.

    And I was under the impression that this disappearance was supported by court rulings as perfectly fine…

  13. maggie says:

    Good for the teacher. The ‘right to remain silent” is a right that most of us should use more frequently.! Just because you have freedom of speech does not mean you HAVE to tell everything you know to EVERYONE. In today’s media driven society the old Sicilian saying
    “Two people can keep a secret if one of them is dead” has never been more true! If you say it or write today, you can bet it could go viral on you in 10 seconds flat so choose what you share with others ! It can come back and bite you in the butt.

  14. frank k. says:

    @Robert in SF:

    So sorry , but I don’t remember any age limit , or ‘exceptions-for-students’ being mentioned in the Constitution …. Perhaps , you can ‘enlighten’ me ….

  15. frank k. says:

    @copper:

    And if they voluntarily agree to take the survey that has their name pre-ptinted , then wake-up to the fact that , in doing so , they have just in-advertantly shot=themselves-in-the-foot , can they THEN plead for 5th amendment protection ? …. Please enlighten me ; I find myself a tad confused , by your logic …. ….

  16. Franklin says:

    Couldn’t they just get the same info from the students’ Facebook pages?

  17. Tyrell says:

    @anjin-san: Totally agree. Parents do have the right to see this document.

  18. Hello Dear, are you genuinely visiting this web site on a regular basis, if so then you
    will without doubt obtain good know-how.

  19. constantly i used to read smaller posts that also clear their motive,
    and that is also happening with this article which I am reading
    at this time.