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Court Allows State College To Drug Test All Students

Linn State Technical College, a public college located in Missouri, adopted a requirement that all students undergo drug screening tests at the start of the semester. It even forced them to pay the $50 cost themselves. It also announced that those students who tested positive for drugs and still tested positive when retested 45 days later would be thrown out of school. That testing requirement has now been upheld against constitutional challenges by a federal appeals court.

This mandate was challenged by a number of students with the aid of the ACLU. They argued that the drug screening requirement violated their rights under the Fourth Amendment not to be subjected to unreasonable searches and seizures.  While a lower federal court agreed with this argument and enjoined the tests, a federal appeals court has now overturned that discretion.

The appeals court believed that any intrusion into students’ rights and privacy was justified by concerns relating to public safety. One example the court gave was that students impaired by drug intoxication could injure themselves or others while operating heavy machinery on campus or while working with electricity or chemicals in connection with their studies.

The original lawsuit characterized the school’s policy as governmental, because it is a public college and therefore bound by the search and seizure restrictions of the Fourth Amendment. The plaintiffs contended that concerns about students who operated heavy machinery or worked with dangerous equipment could be handled by only testing these students, rather than all students. In fact, the school had actually already required drugs tests for such students before adopting its new policy, which tests all students, including business majors who use no dangerous equipment or chemicals.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit vowed to keep fighting the school’s policy, and argued that there was no evidence that the use of drugs had been a problem at the school, while there was a history of alcohol causing major problems, while the school has not developed an alcoholic beverage use screening policy.