on Drugs or a War on Students?
by David Brown
Common sense would dictate that education is one of the most
basic solutions to many of the problems faced by society.
Yet people like Indiana Congressman Mark Souder (R) seem to
believe that the key to helping young people is a refusal
of education. What was originally established to financially
aid college and college-bound students is now being used as
a political ploy to convince voters that action is being taken
against the faceless enemy of the war on drugs. In reality,
however, the enemy in the war on drugs is not faceless: It
is the face of a generation.
The Higher Education Act of 1998 (HEA) contains a Drug Free
Student Aid Provision-an amendment that will delay or even
deny federal financial aid to students who reveal drug convictions.
According to the provision, financial aid is delayed one year
for a first offense, two years for a second, and indefinitely
for a third. This rider is an absurd insult to the concept
of education and must be repealed.
The question must be asked: who is truly going to be helped
by this provision and who is going to be hurt? The answer
is simple: absolutely no one will be helped. In fact, society
as a whole will be harmed. Every student who is denied financial
aid to the extent that (s)he is not able to pursue college
education is statistically less likely than a college graduate
to legitimately contribute to society and is, in fact, more
likely to partake in illegitimate affairs in order to compensate
for the income lost due to lack of educational opportunities.
Worse yet, the HEA (as it stands today) exclusively targets
only low or moderate-income students. Because the law only
regards students in need of financial aid, it is virtually
not applicable to high-income students with drug convictions.
What grounds can possibly justify the taking of education
from select students based on what economic bracket they happen
to fall under?
Unfortunately, this incongruous law also treats racial minorities
unfairly. According to the United States Justice Department
(in 1998), African Americans comprise only 13% of drug users,
but account for 55% of those convicted for drug offenses.
These demographics represent explicit emphasis of drug law
enforcement on the African American community, and because
of the Drug Free Student Aid Provision; specifically African
American drug offenders are more likely to be denied federal
financial aid than drug offenders of any other ethnicity.
Now is the time to stop ignoring the truth. Students and
non-students from all across the nation are uniting to protect
what has been called the "D.A.R.E. generation."
Action is being taken and citizens are working hand in hand
with congressmen to put an end to a law that is destroying
opportunities for the very people it is clamed to protect.
Join arms with Students for Sensible Drug Policy at www.ssdp.com
to let Congress know students will not support a law with
the potential to hurt them. Silence is complicity!