Teacher Suspended Over Advising Students on Fifth Amendment

John Dryden, a social studies teacher at Batavia High School in Illinois, has found himself embroiled in controversy regarding the United States Constitution’s Fifth Amendment that protects against self-incrimination. The school board deemed Dryden’s actions “inappropriate and unprofessional” after he told his students that because of the Fifth Amendment they did not have to fill out a drug and alcohol survey administered by the school, reports Alexa Aguilar of the Chicago Tribune.

…The school board officially reprimanded John Dryden, a 20-year teacher at the high school, at a recent school board meeting after dozens turned out to support him.

In its recent “notice to remedy” letter to Dryden, the board also stipulated that Dryden must now refrain from using “flippant” or sarcastic remarks, providing “legal advice,” and must not “mischaracterize” or “discredit” any district initiative

Dryden served a one-day suspension with out pay as punishment.

Some now consider Dryden a protector of constitutional rights. He informed the class that the Fifth Amendment gave them the right to not fill out the survey, which had the students’ names printed at the top.

District officials claim that the survey was meant to shed light on students who may require emotional or social help. They said Dryden misrepresented the survey and that it was not meant to penalize students for drug and alcohol use.

“As a result of your misconduct, it is unknown how many students who may be in need of emotional and social interventions will go without available assistance or interventions because they heeded your advice to refuse to answer, or provide false answers to survey questions,” the letter read.

Dryden stands by his original concerns.

“This un-vetted survey was and is a massive invasion of privacy and students do have a Fifth Amendment right not to give to a state institution any information that might incriminate them regardless of the intentions of that institution,” he wrote in an emailed response to the board’s letter. “The administration has argued that they intended to do the right thing and that we should have simply trusted them to act responsibly with the information provided by students.”

Dryden said he didn’t have any time to consult the administration about any concerns he had regarding the survey since it was only brought to his attention a few minutes before his class. The district said that they gave the teachers notification in advance.

In Dryden’s disciplinary letter the board stated that this was not his first infraction for remarks to students. In 2012 he was reprimanded for making “hurtful” comments to students, and in the previous year he got in trouble for telling a students to “put those coins away or I’m going to shove them up your [expletive].”

The letter included that Dryden is required to repeat back any directive he is given in a meeting and agree to it.

Dryden wrote that that the new requirements are “demeaning, vague, overly broad and constructed to entrap me in a future infraction for the purpose of termination.”