Students arriving for the start of fall classes last week at Missouri's Linn State Technical College (LSTC) have been told they must take a mandatory drug test  in order to attend classes at the school. The move by college officials makes the school the first public institution of higher education in the land to require suspicionless drug testing, and that has raised the hackles of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which has announced it is seeking plaintiffs to challenge the policy in court.
They have 45 days to retake the drug test and pass it, after which they will be subject to random drug testing for the rest of the semester. Students who fail both the first and the second tests will be subject to "student initiated withdrawal or an administrative withdrawal," the academic equivalent of "you can quit or you're fired."
Linn State admits in its FAQ that it does not believe "LSTC has any greater student drug use issue than other colleges," but justifies the drug testing by saying it is preparing students for the real world. "Drug screening is becoming an increasingly important part of the world of work," the FAQ said. "It is also believed it will better provide a safe, healthy, and productive environment for everyone who learns and works at LSTC by detecting, preventing, and deterring drug use and abuse among students."
The problem for Linn State and its suspicionless mandatory drug testing program is that the federal courts have viewed drug testing by government entities as a search under the Fourth Amendment. That requires particularized suspicion and the issuance of a search warrant.
Limited exceptions have been carved out, including for workers doing tasks that involve public safety, for law enforcement personnel doing anti-drug work, and for high school students involved in student athletics or extracurricular programs. But those are the only exceptions to the broad rule that there can be no government drug testing absent reasonable cause.
The ACLU champions this restrictive view of government's limited ability to demand drug testing -- its Florida affiliate announced last week that it is suing the state of Florida  over a new law requiring welfare applicants to undergo drug tests -- and is ready to take Linn State to court.
"Americans have a right to privacy, and that includes the students of Linn State," the group wrote in a blog post  last week. "The ACLU is looking for plaintiffs to challenge this illegal practice, and we want to hear from you. If you go to Linn State, please join our Facebook group , email or call us at (314) 652-3111. Unlike Linn State, we are here to protect your rights, not violate them."
Linn State is charging all incoming students $50 apiece to pay for their drug tests, but that is not going to cover the legal costs of defending what is very likely to be found an unconstitutional invasion of adult students' right to be free of unwarranted searches.