Newsmakers: John Dryden

Batavia High School teacher made waves with instructions on in-class survey

BATAVIA – Batavia High School social studies teacher John Dryden made local and national headlines when he instructed his students that they had the Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate themselves before answering an in-class survey about emotional and at-risk behavior.

The Batavia School District 101 board in May voted to issue a written warning of improper conduct to Dryden for his actions.

Board member Jon Gaspar was the sole board member to vote “no.”

The notice warned Dryden not to provide legal advice to students, among other things.

Before the board issued the notice, then-Batavia School Superintendent Jack Barshinger docked Dryden a day’s pay.

Dryden said his actions represented “a teachable moment.”

“Reminding my students they had a Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate themselves and asking them to think hard about how they answered questions on a survey on which they were identified and required to answer questions about whether they participated in criminal activity was neither inappropriate nor unprofessional,” Dryden stated in his reply to the school district.

Barshinger had said that students can’t incriminate themselves.

“The information is protected by the Illinois and federal student records act,” Barshinger said. “We won’t give it to law enforcement. That was never the intent.”

Barshinger had said students’ names were put on the surveys to help identify those students who need help.

All high school students were given a 34-question survey April 18 during
their third-block classes that would evaluate their social-emotional perceptions.

–Eric Schelkopf