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Missouri School Demands Students Undergo Drug Test


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#1 notsofasteddie

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Posted 12 September 2011 - 05:50 PM

Missouri College Demands Students Undergo Drug Tests

by Phillip Smith,
September 12, 2011

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.

According to the school's FAQ about drug testing, students who refuse to undergo drug testing will be subject to "an administrative or student-initiated withdrawal," while those who test positive will be put on probation and required to complete either an online educational program at their own cost or assigned to complete unspecified "appropriate activities." 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.


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#2 notsofasteddie

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Posted 16 September 2011 - 02:42 PM

ACLU Blocks Missouri College Drug Testing

by Phillip Smith,
September 16, 2011

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 Wednesday. 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.

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 require 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.

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#3 notsofasteddie

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Posted 13 October 2011 - 04:53 AM

Linn State Admits They Have No Data to Justify Drug Testing Program

by David Borden,
October 12, 2011


A month ago we noted in Drug War Chronicle that Linn State Technical College in Missouri had instituted a broad drug testing policy of all incoming students, the first public institution of higher education in the country to adopt a suspicionless drug testing policy. The ACLU of East Missouri announced it would litigate to block the program, and asked students at Linn State who were opposed to the program to contact them to be plaintiffs.

Evidently they found some, as an article by Timothy Williams at the New York Times this week reports that ACLU has obtained a preliminary injunction blocking the program. Williams interviewed the lawyer for the college, Kent Brown, who admitted the school had no data to justify or motivate the program :


Q. Did graduates have problems with failed drug tests at their jobs? Is that the reason for this?

A. I probably need to answer that this way: I can’t give you specific examples, but it would not surprise me at all if some students encountered difficulties with drug tests after they graduated. The members of our advisory councils for various programs were some of the initiators of this idea and I doubt they would have brought it up if it hadn't been a problem. We don't have any statistics once they graduate. (Emphasis added.)

And if the school has anecdotal information to motivated the policy, they did not share it with their attorney prior to his interviewing with the media -- with The New York Times of all outlets -- a case that had already hit the media four weeks before Williams contacted them.

It begs the question, did decision makers at Linn State review any hard information about drug testing programs and their track record, or the drug testing issue as a whole, before deciding to drug test all their students and charge them $50 for the privilege too? Does anyone doing drug testing review the evidence?


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