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Federal File: Advice on Drug Abuse; Cooperation; Grahm Going

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High-school students from around the country last week told Secretary of Education William J. Bennett their concerns about the major education issues of the day, and much of the talk focused on school discipline and drug abuse among youths.

Mr. Bennett met with about 150 students who were in Washington under the sponsorship of the Close-Up Foundation, which brings young people from across the country to the capital to learn about U.S. government.

The students--from Indianapolis, Seattle, a number of towns in Wisconsin, and the Virgin Islands--had been asked by the Secretary's office to read Federalist Paper Number 10 and be prepared to talk with him about the essay, which he cites regularly in his speeches.

But the discussion soon turned to other issues when it turned out that only a handful had completed the "homework" assignment.

Most of the students in the audience--asked if the use of drugs in their schools was "very serious," "medium-serious," or "not serious"--said the problem was "very serious."

Said Gerald White, an 11th-grade student at Beloit Memorial High School in Beloit, Wis.: "Drugs are very easy to get. If you could cut the availability down, you might see a change."

Several pupils praised the peer-counseling programs that they said are in place in their schools as a way to help students with drug problems.

Others said they thought "rigid enforcement" of anti-drug laws by undercover investigators, police-liaison officers, and administrators, although unpleasant, helped address the problem.


Mr. Bennett and the National Education Association appear to be following the course that they agreed upon earlier this year--one of coexistence rather than confrontation.

In what nea officials described as conciliatory acts, Mr. Bennett granted an interview to nea Today, the association's monthly, and delivered what was described as an upbeat, noncontroversial speech before leaders of the union earlier this month. The interview will be published in the June edition of nea Today.

Anne M. Graham, a top aide to Mr. Bennett, is a leading candidate to fill a vacancy on the five-member Consumer Product Safety Commission, Administration sources say.

An Education Department source said last week that Ms. Graham, the assistant secretary for legislation and public affairs, has already drafted her letter of resignation.

The White House said that President Reagan, who was in Europe last week, had not nominated a new commissioner as of last Thursday, but a spokesman for the consumer agency confirmed that Ms. Graham is in the running for the commissioner's slot.

Ms. Graham, who has worked as a press aide in the Senate and in the Nixon and Ford Administrations, had no comment on the reports last week.--ab & jh

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