Don’t Punish Teacher for Urging Students to Use Their Constitutional Rights

Target: Jack Barshinger, Batavia High School Superintedent

Goal: Don’t discipline a high school teacher for allowing students not to incriminate themselves on a survey about drug use

A teacher at Batavia High School in Illinois, John Dryden, recently urged his students to consider their constitutional right to avoid self incrimination regarding surveys they were required to take. The surveys ranged from questions regarding drug and alcohol use to depression. These surveys were not anonymous: they had each student’s name printed at the top of the page.

School officials, psychologists, and social workers were to review the results of each survey, and Superintendent Jack Barshinger of Batavia Public School District 101 states that these surveys were meant to help students. Due to a recent increase in suicides within the district, Barshinger feels these surveys may allow the administration to identify students who need help. Yet Dryden urged his students to apply their Fifth Amendment rights: questions revolving illicit drug use by students could be self incriminating. Dryden told his students not to complete the survey if they feel they may incriminate themselves.

Dryden now faces disciplinary charges by school officials, which could potentially lead to termination. As a teacher in a public school system, it is absurd to reprimand a teacher for urging students to exercise their rights as citizens against self-incrimination. Sign this petition to urge Superintendent Jack Barshinger to forgo disciplinary action against John Dryden, and commend him for urging students to recognize and enact their rights as citizens.


Dear Jack Barshinger,

On April 18th, your school district issued a survey to students pertaining to emotional states and drug use. While you state that the surveys were intended to identify students who may need help, the nature of the survey is questionable. The questions pertaining to drug and alcohol use, along with the presence of each individual’s name atop the file has created concern among your staff. John Dryden, a teacher in your district, urged students to reconsider completing the survey, citing their Fifth Amendment rights against self incrimination.

Your school board is now considering taking action against John Dryden. I urge you to reconsider—and to commend rather than discipline Dryden. As a public school teacher, Dryden is enacting the very principles of teaching in this country: reminding students that they are in fact citizens and should be treated as such, in accordance with their constitutional rights as Americans. Please, use Dryden as a positive teaching example and protect his position as a teacher. He is a valuable asset to your community and school system.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Jack Hynes via Flickr

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