What could be less controversial than a US public high school social studies teacher informing his students that they have the right to refuse to answer whether they have done something illegal? In fact, this concept—the right against self-incrimination—is part of the typical high school curriculum. Nonetheless, in Illinois this week the Batavia Public School District 101 school board reprimanded and disciplined Mr. John Dryden, a public high school social studies teacher, for informing some of his students of just this concept.
Dryden, who received a student survey just before his first class of the day, realized his students’ names were on their respective survey forms, meaning the survey was not anonymous. He also noticed the survey asked about matters including the students’ drug, alcohol, and tobacco use, as well as their emotions. Dryden then informed some of his students they could apply to this survey the right against self-incrimination. The school district found this otherwise routine lesson unacceptable when the lesson stood in the way of school officials reviewing completed surveys.
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