Controversial N.I.E. Head Nominated As Director of Juvenile-Justice Office
Washington--President Bush has nominated Robert W. Sweet Jr., who had a controversial tenure as acting director of the National Institute of Education in 1981, to head the Justice Department's office of juvenile justice and delinquency prevention.
The Justice Department agency operates several school-based programs that seek to reduce juvenile crime and delinquency in schools.
Currently an analyst for the Senate Republican Policy Committee, Mr. Sweet would succeed Verne L. Speirs, who left the juvenile-justice office in January to take a job with the juvenile court in Orange County, Calif.
The Senate Judiciary Committee, which must approve the nomination, plans to hold hearings on the appointment, but as of last week had not yet scheduled them.
Mr. Sweet's brief but stormy tenure as head of the now-defunct nie was precipitated by the resignation in 1981 of Edward A. Curran, who was then director and had hired Mr. Sweet.
In his memoir, The Thirteenth Man, former Secretary of Education Terrel H. Bell describes both men as "movement conservatives" who attempted to undermine his authority. In particular, he cites Mr. Curran's attempt to bypass the Secretary's office in recommending that the President abolish the research agency.
Mr. Bell recounts that he managed to force Mr. Curran out of the job. Mr. Sweet, however, stayed on as the nie's acting director and began several controversial projects.
The projects included an examination of textbooks for evidence that they encouraged the "values clarification" approach to teaching ethics; a study to determine whether "teaching is an art or a science"; and a study of desegregation and achievement by black students that was based on the premise that "forced 'racial balance' busing amounts to discrimination against minorities."
Rather than nominate Mr. Sweet for the directorship, Mr. Bell chose to appoint Manuel J. Justiz, a researcher. Later, Mr. Sweet was hired to direct the newly created National Council for Education Research, which had technical over8sight authority over the nie
The nie's functions eventually were dispersed to programs within the Education Department's office of educational research and improvement.
In March 1983, Mr. Sweet went to work for the White House Office of Policy Development, and later that year became deputy executive secretary of the Domestic Policy Council at the White House.
If his nomination is approved, he would be responsible for coordinating the Justice Department's efforts to achieve goals outlined in the Juvenile Delinquency and Prevention Act, which was reauthorized last year. The agency conducts research on juvenile delinquency, develops juvenile-justice programs, offers training and assistance to state and local juvenile-justice practitioners, and implements policy for all federal programs within that category.
The office directs such projects as the National School Safety Center, the Cities in Schools project, and the Law-Related Education curriculum. It is also currently collecting data on school crime and discipline.--lj