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 Their Right to Remain Silent

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Posts : 7972
Join date : 2012-05-29
Location : Manchester UK

PostSubject: Their Right to Remain Silent   Sat 01 Jun 2013, 20:56

School Board Reprimands Teacher for Telling Students About Their Right to Remain Silent

Jacob Sullum|May. 29, 2013 9:05 am

Yesterday John Dryden, the Illinois teacher who

his students that they did not have to answer questions
about alcohol and drug use on a survey distributed by their high
school, got a warning of his own. The Kane County

that the Batavia School Board voted to issue "a written
warning of improper conduct" to Dryden, who also was docked a day's
pay. Batavia School Superintendent Jack Barshinger explained
Dryden's offense this way:

In this case, district teachers, social workers, guidance
counselors, psychologists and others worked together for over a
year to select a data-gathering instrument that could be used to
determine what social or emotional issues our high school students
are experiencing, and whether individual students could benefit
from new or increased supportive intervention by our staff. These
purposes were shared with our parents and our teachers.

The issue before the board was whether one employee has the
right to mischaracterize the efforts of our teachers, counselors,
social workers and others; and tell our students, in effect, that
the adults are not here to help, but that they are trying to get
you to "incriminate" yourselves.

Barshinger seems to think it is inconceivable that there could
be anything wrong with the survey, since people with good
intentions worked on it for "over a year." Yet the survey forms
that Dryden picked up from his mailbox 10 minutes before his first
class on April 18 not only asked about illegal behavior; they had
students' names on them, thereby destroying any assurance of
confidentiality. Even if the people who selected the survey were
not trying to get students to incriminate themselves,
that was the inevitable result if students who had broken the law
by drinking or using illegal drugs answered the questions candidly.
What guarantee did they have that their answers would not be used
against them, if only to pressure them into accepting the
"supportive intervention" deemed appropriate by the school? As
Ronald Reagan was fond of saying, much damage can be caused by
people from the government who are "here to help."

"These kids need to know that the U.S. Constitution is there for
them," Batavia Alderman Alan Wolff told the school board yesterday,
referring to the Fifth Amendment's ban on compelled
self-incrimination, which Dryden mentioned as he distributed the
survey forms. Another Batavia High School teacher, Scott Bayer,
said Dryden was not alone in thinking it was important to let
students know they were not obligated to answer the questions if
doing so involved admitting crimes. "Every teacher I talked to
addressed students in the same way," he said. Perhaps we can expect
more written warnings of improper conduct.

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