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ACLU Blocks Missouri College Drug Testing

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #701)
Drug War Issues

A Missouri technical college's plan to force incoming students to undergo suspicionless drug testing is on hold after the ACLU of Eastern Missouri successfully sought a temporary injunction in federal court in St. Louis on September 14. With assistance from Students for Sensible Drug Policy, the group has filed a lawsuit on behalf of six Linn State Technical College students to challenge the constitutionality of the drug tests.

Linn State Technical College
Federal courts consider a drug test to be a search under the Fourth Amendment and have allowed only limited exceptions to the amendment's requirement that searches need a warrant based on reasonable suspicion. Those drug testing exceptions include people working in jobs that impact the public safety (truck drivers, airline pilots), police involved in drug law enforcement, and minor students who participate in high school athletic or other extracurricular activities.

Linn State administrators implemented the drug testing program this fall. It requires all first-year students and some returning students to be screened -- at their own expense -- for drugs, including marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamines, and opiates.

Linn State admits in its drug testing 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 drug testing program at Linn State would be the first of its kind among public institutions of higher learning in the US. The ACLU is determined not to let that happen.

"It is unconstitutional to force students to submit to a drug test when there is zero indication of any kind of criminal activity," said Jason Williamson, staff attorney with the ACLU Criminal Law Reform Project. "The college has demonstrated no legitimate need to drug test its students that outweigh their constitutionally protected privacy rights. This is an unprecedented policy and nothing like it has ever been sanctioned by the courts."

"This is an invasive policy that requires people to submit to tests that reveal private and intimate things like medical conditions or whether they are pregnant that people have a right to protect, said Anthony Rothert, legal director of the ACLU of Eastern Missouri. "A person's privacy should not be invaded like this, especially when they have done nothing wrong and when there's not even an allegation that they've done something wrong."

With the issuance of the temporary restraining order, the ACLU and the Linn State students it represents have won an initial victory. Now, they must convince the court in St. Louis that their temporary victory should be made permanent.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


kickback (not verified)

Is the school willing to spend money to fight it out in court? Encourage some bad publicity? See enrollment plummet? The folks at the school who came up with this debacle now have their tail between their legs. Tucked nicely away. The school will drop the drug testing idea.

Fri, 09/16/2011 - 9:42pm Permalink
sicntired (not verified)

If drug testing anyone at anytime for suspicionless tests is the way it is in the real world it is because places like universities are bending over and grabbing their ankles when asked.This is a violation of individual freedom and is against the rule against self incrimination.To submit to a drug test without cause is a mistake and for a school to even ask is their joining of the hysteria that the country is imposing on the whole world with their stupid and misguided drug war.Universities,of all institutions should be aware that use of drugs has been part of life for centuries.It is only since the Victorian era that morality was brought into the picture and it was early 20th century prohibitionists that caused all the problems.Drug prohibition is the only remnant of that restrictive society that has hung on into the 21st.It is far past it's due date and for universities to join in the witch hunt is not only disappointing,it's immoral.To actually ask the students to pay for the intrusion into their private lives is rubbing salt into the wound.Tests aren't cheap and especially on a student budget.

Sat, 09/17/2011 - 7:07am Permalink
War Vet (not verified)

Thank God they've stopped the testing.  Drug testing reinforces the war on drugs and the war on drugs supports terrorism . . . What is this college’s plan for arresting drug users in Europe, Africa and Asia (the main buyers of the terrorists’ dope)?  The act of keeping drugs illegal and implementing any aspects of drug prohibition is called treason if and only if we can prove 9/11 and the War on Terror are real . . . lest us not forget that nothing less than 50% of drug money funded 9/11 and the deaths and injuries to our soldiers in Iraq (since they are poor without Saddam and oil and Iranian taxes adequately funding terrorism makes as much sense as Pepsi Cola or Nintendo funding terrorism or our own taxes funding the OKC bombing).  In the real world, its unlawful to give anyone a urine test for drugs, just like its unlawful to arrest or charge or sentence or lock up one for drugs . . . it makes those who engage in drug laws and policies and enforcement under this prohibition atmosphere, eligible for the maximum sentence for treason in a time of war, though the law being obeyed when dealing with treason will unlikely happen.  This university should be ashamed of itself at a time of recession.  Drug enforcement between September 11, 2001 to today has cost a trillion dollars alone (half or more of 9/11 and the war on terror is logically a part of our drug enforcement budget since fighting dope sponsored terrorists is drug enforcement too) . . . they wonder why we have a recession.  They are supposed to prepare students for the real world . . . drug tests have as much in common with the real world as the high dragon and elf population in America affects us . . . . The act of keeping drugs illegal is bad for business and a tech college is all about jobs and business.  When you make 7-20 million jobs illegal for decades at a time, you will lose out on several trillion dollars.  What kind of Tech school praises unemployment, recession and a deficit? 

Fri, 09/23/2011 - 12:14am Permalink
Bill W (not verified)

How can any drug test be legal if carried out by a private source, rather than a bona-fide law enforcement agency? If any asshole wants a person to take a drug test, they should obtain a search warrant based on probable cause, and whatever law enforcement agency that has jurisdiction should carry it out, not a corporation.

Sat, 09/24/2011 - 11:25am Permalink

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