March 27, 2006
Students Prevail in Lawsuit Against Department of Education
Government Surrenders Data on Drug Law to Avoid Court Battle
WASHINGTON, D.C.– After being sued by one of the nation’s largest student organizations, the U.S. Department of Education has agreed to waive a hefty fee and turn over data on the effects of a law that strips financial aid from college students with drug convictions. The group, Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP), submitted a Freedom of Information Act request more than a year ago seeking a simple state-by-state breakdown of the number of people denied aid due to the law. Nearly 200,000 have been affected nationwide.
SSDP, represented by the consumer advocacy organization Public Citizen, filed a lawsuit in January after the government refused to waive a $4,000 fee to provide the data. The Department of Education erroneously claimed that SSDP needed to pay the fee because the information is not in the public interest but instead could further the commercial interests of those who might profit from the legalization of drugs. Last week, though, the government agreed to waive the fee and provide the data by March 31 to avoid losing a court battle.
“Next time federal officials want to stifle a group whose message they don’t like, they’ll have to think of a much better excuse,” said Kris Krane, executive director of SSDP. “Federal bureaucrats thought students would give up easily in our quest to reveal the disastrous impact this punitive Drug War policy has on our generation. They were wrong.”
Added Adina Rosenbaum, the Public Citizen attorney who handled the case, “The information requested by SSDP was clearly in the public interest. We are glad the government has decided not to defend its erroneous decision to charge SSDP fees.”
To read a copy of the suit, click here.
Last week, SSDP and the American Civil Liberties Union filed a separate lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the overarching aid ban for students with drug convictions. For more information, click here.