The Associated Press reports a federal judge blocked a Missouri technical college from drug-testing its students on Friday for a second time, following a higher court’s decision reversing a previous decision as too broad.
U.S. District Judge Nanette Laughrey in Jefferson City granted a preliminary injunction that temporarily prevents Linn State Technical College from screening all first-year students and some returning students for cocaine, methamphetamines, oxycodone and eight other drugs.
The two-year school also cannot report the test results from September 2011, when it began the program and collected urine samples from 500 students before the American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri filed suit on behalf of six students. The lawsuit claims the program violates students’ Fourth Amendment rights against unlawful searches and seizures.
Under the Linn State policy students new to the institution must pay $50 and submit to drug test for a broad range of substances — refusing results in the student being dropped from the college. A student who tests positive for drug use could remain enrolled if they test clean 45 days later, complete an online drug-prevention course at student cost of $35 or other “appropriate activities,” and may be referred for professional assistance. A federal appeals court overturned and an earlier restraining order from Laurghrey in January that sought to protect current and future students, calling it too broad, leading the ACLU to file a narrower complaint on behalf of current students.
The Supreme Court has upheld mandatory drug testing for high school athletes and for those in jobs that pose a significant threat to public safety if done under the influence. While Linn State claims that as a technical college their students operate heavy machinery and drug testing is needed to keep them safe, none of the six plaintiffs in the ACLU case operate heavy machinery as part of their academic program — instead, they work on programs like Electronics Engineering Technology and Design Drafting Technology that involve sitting at a drafting table or in front of a computer.
While the mandatory drug testing program at Linn State is the only such program that the ACLU is aware of at a public college or university in the country, blanket drug testing proposals for welfare recipients have become increasingly common despite their dubious legal standing. In February, a federal appeals court unanimously upheld a decision to fault a Florida law that would require all state welfare applicant to be drug tested.