Embattled Batavia teacher to step down

A Batavia High School teacher who advised his students that they had a constitutional right not to fill out a school survey on risky behavior is retiring from his position, officials said.

Social studies teacher John Dryden submitted his letter of resignation to Batavia School District 101 officials Friday, said Superintendent Lisa Hichens.

The school board will hold a special meeting at 5 p.m. Monday to approve a retirement agreement with Dryden.

Dryden, who spent 21 years at the school, told three of his classes on April 18, 2013 that they had a Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate themselves when they took a social-emotional learning survey. The 34-question survey asked about drug, alcohol and tobacco use, and emotions.

Each survey was labeled with the name of the student filling it out; school district officials said they intended to identify students who could use help. The results were to be reviewed by school social workers, counselors and psychologists.

Dryden told the Daily Herald in May 2013 that he only found out about the contents of the survey 10 minutes before his first class. Otherwise, he said he would have brought his concerns to school administrators earlier.

"I made a judgment call. There was no time to ask anyone," Dryden said.

Then-Superintendent Jack Barshinger said the Fifth Amendment didn't apply because the surveys would have become student records and subject to student privacy laws, and police wouldn't have been able to prosecute based on a survey alone.

Dryden was disciplined by the school board, receiving a letter of remedy directing him to take certain actions or face more consequences. Among those actions, Dryden was told to stop giving students legal advice, not discuss his employment with students, and not use sarcasm or make flippant remarks with students.

Board President Cathy Dremel said at the time that Dryden "mischaracterized" the efforts of fellow teachers and administrators, some of who had worked on a committee for a year to find a survey instrument that would assess students' risky behavior.

"The board will not support any employees giving students false impressions about those who come here every day" to work for their best interests, she said.

Only one board member, Jon Gaspar, voted against issuing the letter to Dryden.

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