It is a never-ending source of amazement to me just how badly American public schools are being administered these days. I am compiling a collection of “Zero Tolerance” articles for use in a future blog post, but today am motivated to write by an event which occurred on April 18 at Batavia High School in Batavia, Illinois.
On that date, Batavia High social studies teacher John Dryden discovered that the school was administering to students a “survey” in which they were asked, in part, about their use of drugs, alcohol and tobacco — use of all of which is, of course, illegal for high school students. The name of each student appeared on these “surveys”, which also asked about other highly personal matters, including mental health.
Upon discovering the content of the “survey”, teacher Dryden reminded his students in several of his classes of their 5th Amendment right not to incriminate themselves. For this lesson in civics and constitutional law, Dryden has been threatened with placement of a “letter of remedy” in his personnel file.
Under Illinois law, a “letter of remedy” informs a teacher that his conduct was improper. The school board can impose adverse consequences ranging all the way up to dismissal.
Former students, parents of current students and even one Batavia alderman have rallied to Dryden’s support and a “Defend and Support John Dryden” petition has garnered more than 1000 signatures (though some apparently are duplicates).
Separate and apart from the absurdity of disciplining a teacher for teaching his students about their constitutional rights, the survey itself raises other concerns. It was prepared by a private company and is being reviewed by school officials, including social workers, counselors and psychologists.
According to an article in the Batavia Herald, Mr. Brad Newkirk, the school’s “chief academic officer” (whatever that is), commented that, “The survey was not a diagnostic tool, but a ‘screener’ to figure out which students might need specific help.” Newkirk and other school officials involved in distributing this “survey” are apparently oblivious not only to the constitutional implications, but also to the blatant invasion of personal privacy and the fact that none of this is any of their business.
Despite being targeted for possible discipline, Mr. Dryden defended the school’s administrators, generously stating, “These are good, professional, smart people on the other side who want to do what is right by kids.” On that point, I disagree with him. If these administrators really want to “do what is right by the kids”, they will concentrate on teaching and leave law enforcement and mental health issues to professionals qualified to act on those issues.
The Batavia Herald article discussing this issue is here:
The petition supporting Mr. Dryden, which I have signed, is here: