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I was a social studies teacher.

I taught government.

That meant teaching students about the Bill of Rights.

That includes the 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination.

So when I read High School Teacher Faces Discipline for Informing Students About Their Rights, you can probably imagine my reaction.

High school students were given a survey that had their names on them.

They were asked questions about drinking and drug use, both of which represent a violation of the law.

The teacher, John Dryden, pick up the survey ten minutes before his first class, had no time to consult with administrators and since he had just completed a unit of the Bill of Rights

he decided to tell his students that they did not have to complete the forms if doing so involved admitting illegal behavior. Tomorrow the school board will consider whether and how to punish Dryden for taking advantage of this teachable moment.
Now he faces discipline ranging from a letter of remedy being place in his file which could prevent his being hired by another district, and even the possibility of dismissal.

There is one difference between Dryden and myself -  I would have told students they could not be required to answer the questionnaire even without checking with an administrator.  If you are going to entrust me with teaching your children about the Bill of Rights, then I am going to teach them - as they were intended, as they are currently interpreted by the Courts.

I have faced this once.  One principal sent a subordinate to tell me not to tell the students they had the right not to recite or even to stand during the Pledge of Allegiance (per W. Virginia State Board of Education v Barnette in 1943).  My response was that if the principal wanted to say that to me, (1) s/he should say it to my face, in which case (2) my first phone call would be to the ACLU and my second to the Washington Post.   The principal backed off.

If in fact this teacher can be disciplined for this, then I suggest the school district drop all teaching about the Constitution or Bill of Rights, since the members and school administration seem willing to ignore what it says.

Originally posted to teacherken on Tue May 28, 2013 at 05:51 AM PDT.

Also republished by Teachers Lounge and Education Alternatives.

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