John Dryden, is a social studies teacher at Batavia High School in Illinois. It may have been his social science background or his concern for basic rights of students, but Dryden felt that he should mention that students have constitutional rights not to incriminate themselves in a school-mandated survey. The survey, after all, was asking the student if they had used drugs, tobacco, and alcohol. In response, the school disciplined Dryden and docked his pay.
Dryden told his student about the Fifth Amendment rights but did not discourage them from filing out the survey. Batavia School Superintendent Jack Barshinger (right) would have none of it. While he said students have rights, “[t]he Fifth Amendment – you don’t typically hear about in a school setting. That’s because the law has already been set that don’t allow students to self incriminate.” I was not aware that “the law has already been set that don’t allow students to self incriminate.” Recently, in J.D.B. v. North Carolina, No. 09-11121 (2011), the Supreme Court held that age is relevant when determining police custody for Miranda purposes. Previously, in Yarborough v. Alvarado the Court wrote that a child’s age “generates commonsense conclusions about behavior and perception.” It is certainly true that the Supreme Court has reduced protections (often erroneously in my view) in the school settings, but Barshinger appears to have a more sweeping notion of school power. Regardless, in this case, a teacher was just informing students of their rights so that they could make such decisions.
I expect that the survey would not be used for reporting students to police. However, schools are increasingly cooperating with police to use their setting to interrogate students without informing their parents.
I can understand the point that the students could opt out but Dryden was giving them information relevant to that decision. For a social science teacher, it was also a teachable moment on civil liberties. At a meeting, nearly 100 students, former students and colleagues turned out to support Dryden.
What do you think?