Eagle Forum Legislative Alerts

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

School Tramples on Fifth Amendment

An Illinois high school teacher was recently disciplined for informing his students that they have a Fifth-Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination. The students were about to take a survey that included obnoxious questions about drug and alcohol use. The survey was not anonymous; each student's name was printed at the top of his paper. The survey was designed to associate students' names with their responses, so that school officials could determine which students might require therapy or so-called "extra help."

The teacher who told the students they have Fifth-Amendment rights should have been recognized as a hero. Instead, he was punished by the school board. He was assigned a list of probationary actions to complete. Only one school-board member opposed the punishment. I think the board's decision was unacceptable: schools should not punish teachers for informing students about their Constitutional rights. The school superintendent had an appalling justification for punishing the teacher. He publicly stated that there was no Fifth Amendment issue at hand. But students were being asked about drug and alcohol use. For a high school student to admit use of drugs or alcohol is admitting to breaking the law. That's precisely what the Fifth Amendment protects us from doing. School officials should not be punishing those who teach our children about the Bill of Rights. Teachers should understand, and respect, and teach kids about the U.S. Constitution.

The school's attack on the Constitution also encroached on the rights of parents. It is the parents' duty, not the government's, to make sure that children are free from substance abuse. Caring parents should be the ones to help teenagers steer clear of destructive behavior, not government employees. And parents could serve this role, if schools would not keep interfering and pretending that the "village" should raise the child instead of his own parents.

Listen to the radio commentary here:



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