Leading Education, Civil Rights, and Drug Policy Organizations Urge Congress to Repeal HEA Drug Provision in Full 5/10/02

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In a letter sent on May 6 to the House Education and the Workforce Committee, 39 national education, civil rights and drug policy organizations urged full repeal of the drug provision of the Higher Education Act, a law that has denied 75,000 would-be students financial aid since it was enacted in late 1997. The letter, organized by the DRCNet-coordinated Coalition for Higher Education Act Reform, said partial reforms to the law advocated by some members of Congress, including Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN), the law's author, are "laudable but do not address the extremely serious education and discrimination concerns that we have."

H.R. 3777, a bill introduced by Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY) with Rep. Souder, would limit the law's impact to students who were in school and receiving aid when they committed their offense. The bill at last report had five cosponsors including Souder. H.R. 786, a bill sponsored by Rep. Barney Frank to repeal the drug provision in full, has 66 cosponsors, including Rep. Meeks.

"There is clear evidence to suggest that because of racial profiling and other forms of discrimination in the criminal justice system, Blacks and Hispanics are disproportionately targeted, arrested, and convicted of drug offenses. Therefore, a policy that denies financial aid to people with drug convictions has a racially discriminatory impact," says Wade Henderson, Executive Director of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, the nation's oldest and largest civil rights coalition. "This discriminatory denial of educational opportunities to minority students should be repealed."

"This law takes education away from kids in America who need it most," says ACLU Legislative Counsel Rachel King. "Students are having their futures put in jeopardy for minor indiscretions. Blocking their access to higher education benefits no one and fundamentally harms society at large."

"This policy has had many consequences, unintended or not. But one of them is to prevent young people -- many of whom are Latinos who have overcome a troubled past, worked hard, and are now in college -- from fulfilling their dream of a college education. This can't possibly be the outcome Congress intended when it passed this legislation," states Raul Yzaguirre, president of the National Council of La Raza.

"Substance abuse among our young people is a serious national problem, but blocking the path to an education is an inappropriate response," says Larry Zaglaniczny of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators. "Closing the doors of our colleges and universities, making it more difficult for at-risk young people to finish college and succeed in their goals, is not a commonsense policy for an advanced society such as ours."

Some of the other major organizations signing the letter include the National Education Association, NAACP, Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, Students for Sensible Drug Policy and United States Student Association.

Visit http://www.RaiseYourVoice.com/Letter/ to read the entire letter and view the list of signers. Visit http://www.RaiseYourVoice.com/heainfo.html for a list of student governments that have adopted a resolution calling for repeal of the drug provision.

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Issue #236, 5/10/02 Editorial: Unsafe Streets | Leading Education, Civil Rights, and Drug Policy Organizations Urge Congress to Repeal HEA Drug Provision in Full | Congressional Drug and Terrorism Expert Says Legalization Could Cut Crime | Needle Exchange Not Playing Well in Peoria | Philadelphia Trying to Quash Open-Air Drug Markets With Massive Police Presence | In Hartford, Neighborhood Drug Fighters and Drug Reformers Inhabit Parallel Universes | Million Marijuana March Hits 200 Cities Worldwide, Major Arrests Only in NYC | Patient's Hunger Strike for Medical Cannabis Enters Fourth Week | Newsbrief: FDA Okays Marijuana Hair Test, Would Detect Up to Three Months | Newsbrief: German Heroin Deaths Decline After Safe Injection Sites Introduced | Newsbrief: South Dakota Hemp Petition Signatures Submitted, Seeds Planted | Newsbrief: Philippine Official Asks End to Vigilante Killings of Drug Dealers, Users | Newsbrief: Canadian Senate Panel Hints at Marijuana Legalization | NPR and Reuters on HEA and SSDP | The Reformer's Calendar

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