Past Drug Charges Derail a Law Student’s Education

from NYTs

David Powers came out of a drug rehabilitation program about 15 years ago hungry to swing his life in a significantly different direction. And that he did.

He went back to college and graduated with a 3.9 grade point average. He was hired at a major accounting firm, worked in senior positions at three hedge funds, and was accepted to the law school at St. John’s University.

Mr. Powers still calls the day of his arrest, when he was pulled off a destructive path, the “best day of my life.”

Halfway through his coursework, while trying to get ahead on his application to the bar, he acknowledged to St. John’s how far he had come. Not only had he been convicted of drug possession, a fact he disclosed on his application, but he had also originally been charged with selling drugs, a fact he had not. St. John’s then rescinded his acceptance — kicked him out — saying that if it had known his complete history, it would never have admitted him in the first place.

Mr. Powers sued the school, taking the case all the way to the state’s highest court, the New York Court of Appeals. Last week, the court handed down the final word in a 5-to-1 decision: Mr. Powers would not return to St. John’s.

More here.

Posted in Education, Law and tagged , , .


  1. Should institutions such as educational institutions have access to your background? This dilemma reminds me of educational institutes such as colleges looking at one’s social media in order to decide if they will accept a student. Whether a student applying to a college has made bad decisions or not, I feel that institutions should not be able to access backgrounds. My mind is consumed on the logical and illogical answer, and this is what I have decided. Yes, it would be logical for institutions to be able to access the background of their students. Yet, it is not humanistic. Looking at their background does not count looking at their personality. When an institution looks at the bad decisions that an adolescent has made, it is unfair to that adolescent. Adolescents, as I pointed out in an earlier argument, have not fully developed in their brain. They will not make wise decisions based on the fact that not only have they not experienced life enough and are so consumed in their self and emotions, but also that due to the fact that these students biologically have undeveloped frontal lobes which help to make wise and non-risky decisions. That is why I feel that institutions should not have access to student’s records. I do believe that there will always be exceptions though. That does not mean that overall this information whether criminal or not should be disclosed. If the student decided to disclose it, it should not be counted against them. What they have done in the past should not decide their present of past in such circumstances as selling drugs. Again, I do feel that there are exceptions though.
    This is why my mind is so consumed on what the right answer would be. For instance, if someone murdered someone at a young age…I would definitely want to know that information. Yet at the same time, what if that person had mental issues and had been treated effectively. What if they saw the wrong in their ways and realized what they had committed was wrong. Everyone deserves a second chance. If the information that they had committed something like that was revealed, it would not matter if they received effective treatment. That person would no longer be accepted into regular society with hopes of making a living. I will still settle on the answer that information such as criminal records should not be accessible by institutions unless disclosed by said person the information is related to.

  2. Leslie, I feel that you had said some things that did contradict itself. I do feel that maybe there should be limitations on the information disclosed to institutions or no information should be provided at all. I agree that “legal guidelines” should be provided in order to protect citizens who have bettered themselves with treatment and repented from their past crimes in order that they may be able to enter normal society again. Making one mistake in a lifetime should not define one person entire life.
    It is almost hypocrital how people in the United States say that people need to repent for this, that and the third for their past mistakes, but they still judge said person for their past mistakes. How else is someone able to better themselves when they are judged for it no matter what they do to repent?
    I agree with you that Powers should not have been kicked out of St. Johns. Especially after he had invested both time and money into the institution. On another note, if they did kick him out, Powers should have been refunded his money and paid for the time he had to invest into that school at the very least. There were too many factors that Powers should not have been kicked and not reimbursed. With that, I do believe Powers should have disclosed the information because from what I understand, it was a part of St. John’s policy to do so, and it was also noted that they did not accept students with past drug history. There was fault on both ends.
    In saying what I just did before, I am not saying that I believe institutions such as St. John should have the power to access that information, but they do. Since they are allowed to collect that information, Powers should have complied and disclosed the information or even applied to another school.
    In all, institutions should not have access or information accessed should be limited. I also feel legal guidelines should be there in order to protect people such as Powers. In the end both Powers and St. Johns were in the wrong.

  3. In recent years Americans have seen an increase of drug use due to practitioners over prescribing narcotics post surgery. Although most addicts turn to the choice heroin, there is a small percentage of the population that turns to drugs like LSD and MDMA. In the New York Times Article “Past Drug Charges Derail a Law Students Education” David Powers a recovered addict was discriminated against by the law program at St. Johns, being kicked out from the program mid semester. When Powers took this case to court to argue the extent of punishment the school enacted on Powers he was disappointed to find the court upheld the decision. Powers, although a past addict and deal had made a complete turn around in his life using rehab as his chance to become free of his addiction and reach his full potential. After reaching his full potential he entered society got several degrees and worked for a very pristine company. After his case arguing his dismissal from law school his past drug offenses became public and now he can find no further employment. This article was deeply disturbing for me to read. Personally, I feel that most addicts have this disease at the fault of doctors carelessly prescribing copious amounts of addictive medication. Addicts go into rehab inorder to rehabilitate themselves from this disease so that they can enter society again and their full potential and once again become a contributing member to society. The entire point of rehabs is to help give back people their lives that the addiction takes all the quality out of so to have institutions not accept these recovered addicts who worked very hard to get to where they are is appalling. Recovered addicts with low grade drug offenses should legally not have to disclose those charges when applying to higher education or for work to avoid the stigma of being a recovered addict. Drug addiction is a lot more common amongst families in America than the public eye would like to admit and it causes the solidification of this stigma and mistreatment of civilians with past drug offenses even though most Americans have a loved one battling the same addiction. I’m not saying that all convicted felons should not have to disclose criminal records when applying to be hired, however if the charges were not violent or for theft then there is no danger or threat to these individuals not disclosing their information. This is the part of the government that I hate and feel needs to be fixed because it is clearly corrupted. People with a lot of money can go on a drug binge, hide away at a luxury rehab and then come back to society as if nothing happened. However, average Americans that bust their ass to beat addiction try to enter society again and are smacked on the wrist time and time again. There are far worse things that a person can do like lie, money launderer, deceive the public, and abuse power which are all common headliners for most politicians but the drug addicts are the ones who are painted as a danger to the general welfare of Americans and its sick.

  4. The story of David Powers is very upsetting to hear from the stand point of someone that has seen what is like to be denied an education because of past actions. I do not want to go into extreme detail but someone that I know was denied the opportunity to go back to get their college degree because of some previous charges that they were not proud of. I completely understand that at an institution such as St.Johns and especially in their law school, they want to maintain a certain sense of prestige. However, to say that if they would have known his whole story, then they would have never excepted him sounds outrageous to me. I say this because before they except him or any other student, they should already know a good amount about them, in order to determine the character that they are letting into their institution.
    Education is the way to our innovation. In order to be innovative, we have to be able to learn and teach others. In this case, Mr. Powers had grown since his arrest and battle with drugs, and therefore, should have been given more of a chance to prove to the law school that he was capable of being apart and excelling in their program. It is hard to assess criminal records, I do not doubt this. However, because he had earned that 3.9 GPA, and graduated already, he should have been given that same opportunity to pursue his passion. He was doing very well in life at this point. This just shows how much the past can truly effect ones future, so we must be careful about what we do and put out there for others to see. I respect his decision to sue the school and although he did not win, hopefully he can reach his ultimate goal and help others that had the same issues as him, break through.

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