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Article updated: 5/31/2013 2:19 PM

Batavia teacher told to stop giving legal advice

John Dryden is a social studies teacher at Batavia High School who has been reprimanded by the district.

John Dryden is a social studies teacher at Batavia High School who has been reprimanded by the district.

 
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The Batavia teacher disciplined Tuesday for telling his students they had a right not to incriminate themselves on a school survey, has been told to stop giving students legal advice, to not discuss his employment with students, and to not use sarcasm nor make flippant remarks with students.

Those are some of the requirements for John Dryden to avoid further discipline, according to the letter of remedy the school board issued.

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Dryden is not to "mischaracterize or discredit" district initiatives, curriculum, activities or programs "to students or others."

He is also "to refrain from making statements or taking any actions that may tend to dissuade students from participating" in district activities, programs or initiatives.

The requirements are in effect until the District 101 school board decides otherwise.

Multiple attempts to reach Dryden were unsuccessful.

On April 18 Batavia High School teachers were to administer a survey asking students about their emotional health, as well as drug and alcohol use. Students' names were on the copies, because the survey was to look for students that might need the help of school employees such as counselors, psychologists and social workers, according to the district.

Dryden, a social studies teacher, told students in his first three classes they had the right not to incriminate themselves.

According to the letter of remedy, the district says Dryden did more than that. It says a student told an unspecified person that Dryden said he himself would not take the survey if he were a student; and that Dryden told students the surveys would be sent down to Student Services and "that students should remember that when filling out the surveys."

In a previous interview, Dryden said he only reminded students of their Fifth Amendment rights, and did not advise them whether to take the survey.

The letter says teachers were made aware of the purpose of the survey "in advance," although it does not say how many days beforehand, and that Dryden did not raise objections beforehand. Dryden said he saw the contents of the survey just 10 minutes before his first class.

Because of his actions, the school may not know about all students who need emotional or social intervention, because some may have heeded his advice, the letter states.

The letter says the April 18 incident is "part of a pattern of inappropriate and unprofessional statements to students that you have exhibited over the last few years." It cites an October 2011 event in which Dryden told a student, "Put those coins away or I will shove them up your (buttocks)." According to the letter, Dryden admitted the comment, saying he lost his temper.

On April 25, 2012, he is accused of telling a noise-making student, "What, did you mix your drugs this morning?" and to another student, "I'm surprised your father hasn't drowned you yet." It turned out the first student's family had a history of substance abuse, and the second student's father was dead.

He received letters of reprimand for both incidents.

Other corrective actions required:

If Dryden has a concern about whether students' rights are being violated, he is to discuss them with a district administrator.

He's not to involve students in his personnel issues, "through conversation or otherwise."

At the end of any meeting with his supervisors where work-related directives are given, he is to repeat the directives and tell the supervisor he agrees to obey them.

The district maintains there was never a Fifth Amendment issue, because it intended only to use the surveys to judge students' health, particularly in the wake of several suicides in recent years. The district said students' answers constituted a student record, governed by federal student privacy laws. Superintendent Jack Barshinger said the district did not intend to release results to police.

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