A social studies teacher in Illinois is facing possible dismissal after he informed his students of their constitutional right to skip self-incriminating questions on a drug and alcohol use survey administered by the school.
John Dryden says he became aware of the questions while reviewing the survey before class, and, upon noticing that the form was not anonymous, decided to take advantage of the teachable moment to refresh his students on the Fifth Amendment, which grants US citizens the right not to incriminate themselves.
Batavia High School officials claim the survey will not be turned over to law enforcement, but will instead be used by social workers, counselors, and other professionals to assess if students meet the "social-emotional learning standards" set for the school by the state.
The survey will also be used to "screen" for special needs students who may be concealing their emotional distress, according to the districts's chief academic officer, Brad Newkirk.
However, the school district refused to share a copy of the survey with members of the press, saying it was purchased from Multi-Health Systems Inc., a private company, and its contents "are proprietary business information."
Dryden says he would have given administrators a heads up had he been given the surveys earlier, but was forced to make a "judgment call" as "there was no time to ask anyone."
He believes he was ultimately ratted out by a fellow teacher who noticed some students weren't completing the survey.
Though he has a hearing scheduled for today that may result in a permanent stain on his record and even dismissal, Dryden says the focus of the outrage should be the survey itself.
"I have asked people to talk about the survey. I think I am a sideshow," he said. "This [survey] was rushed and it wasn't vetted. I'm not a martyr. I'm trying to refocus people's attentions. Calm down."
Nearly 5,000 supporters of Dryden's message have signed a petition calling on the school board to drop all disciplinary action against Dryden and ensure that his employment continues.