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A federal court of appeals has cleared the way for a public college in Missouri to become the first in the nation to impose mandatory drug testing on its entire student body.
In September of 2011, Linn State Technical College announced its plan to force all students to pay $50 to submit to drug screening within the first 10 days of the semester. Those who failed would have 45 days to rescreen and test negative in order to remain enrolled.
With the help of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Michael Barrett IV and other students filed a suit against the school — claiming that the rule violated their Fourth Amendment right as Americans to protection from unreasonable search and seizure.
In November, the students won an injunction which halted further testing and barred the school from screening the samples that students had already provided.
But this past January, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit lifted the injunction, arguing that the tests were Constitutional due to concerns about public safety.
Senior Judge C. Arlen Beam, who wrote the Eighth Circuit opinion, cited the presence of heavy machinery on LSTC’s campus, which he said could endanger students if operated by impaired individuals.
“Linn State offers several programs and areas of study, many of which require students to work with potentially dangerous heavy equipment, machines, chemicals and electricity,” he wrote.
But an ACLU attorney representing the students in the case, Anthony E. Rothert, told Campus Reform on Friday that the policy is unconstitutional because LSTC is a public institution and thereby a function of government.
“The Fourth Amendment does not allow the government to search us without having a good reason,” he said. “The key here is that this is a public school, so it really is the government who’s demanding urine samples and testing them.”
Furthermore, Rothert said that the concerns about public safety did not apply because the college had required drug tests for students who interacted with dangerous equipment before it implemented the policy in question. The lawsuit did not object to this, he said, but only to extending this requirement to all students.
“Even people who were going to be business majors, who the most dangerous equipment they’re going to be around is a calculator, are subjected to the drug test under this policy,” he said.
Rothert attributed the Eighth Circuit's decision to a misunderstanding, and pledged the ACLU would seek a more specific injunction to stop the screening before it begins.
“There’s no history of any problems,” he said. “In fact, the evidence is that the only drug that’s ever caused any problems on campus is alcohol. They’re not testing for that, though.”
Follow the author of this article on Twitter @kctimpf
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