News in Brief: A Washington Roundup
Department Toughens Stance
On College Aid to Drug Convicts
The Department of Education will step up enforcement of a law that denies federal financial aid to some college students with past drug convictions, department officials said last week.
Students were required last year for the first time to state on federal financial-aid applications whether they previously had been convicted of drug offenses. But critics said the wording was confusing, and some 279,000 applicants left the question blank.
The Education Department, which has acknowledged it doesn't have the resources to verify if the 10 million or so applicants for college aid have answered the question truthfully, last year processed the applications whether students answered the question or not.
But Lindsey Kozberg, a department spokeswoman, said Secretary of Education Rod Paige has made it clear that applications that don't contain a response to the question this year will be kicked back to students.
Department officials said that the question was left blank on slightly more than 11,000 of the 3.9 million aid applications they've received so far this year.
—Scott W. Wright
Boyhood District Names School for Paige
A junior high in Mississippi has just been given a new name: Rod Paige Middle School.
The current secretary of education attended a segregated school in grades 1-12 on the same grounds, said Julie J. Wall, the assistant to the superintendent for the 2,400- student Lawrence County public schools. That school, Lawrence County Training Center, burned down; Monticello Junior High was built on the same site in 1953.
Mr. Paige visited the school last week. The name is meant not only to honor the secretary, Ms. Wall said, but also to send students a message.
"It represents that the education you gain here—there's no limit to what you can do with it," she said.
—Erik W. Robelen
California District Gets Violence Grant
The Department of Education awarded the second grant under its new Project School Emergency Response to Violence program this month—once again to the Grossmont Union High School District in California.
Secretary of Education Rod Paige announced on April 12 that the department would give the 22,000-student La Mesa, Calif., district $51,700 to help it recover from a March 22 shooting at Granite Hills High School in El Cajon. Five people and the alleged gunman were injured in the incident. ("Second High School Shooting Rocks Calif. District," March 28, 2001.)
The Grossmont district was also the recipient of the department's first-ever Project SERV grant last month to aid its response to another shooting on March 5. A 14-year-old student at Santana High School is accused of killing two students and injuring 13 people in that shooting. The money from the first grant is being used to help pay for heightened security and extended counseling services, according to a district spokesman.
Project SERV was created last year with a $10 million appropriation from Congress to help students and school staff members recover from violent events.
—Darcia Harris Bowman
Vol. 20, Issue 32, Page 27