Mandatory and Suspicionless Drug Testing Program at Linn State Technical College Ruled Unconstitutional
Students of Linn State Technical College in Jefferson City, Missouri celebrated a win for their Fourth Amendment rights today when a U.S. district court judge ruled the school’s mandatory drug testing policy unconstitutional. In the fall of 2011, the two-year public college enacted a suspicion less drug testing program that required all incoming freshmen and students returning from a six-month absence to pay a nonrefundable $50 testing fee and submit a urine sample. Naturally, students were dismayed by a privacy-invading policy that pulled them out of classes for testing and resulted in the dismissal of those who failed two tests in a 45 day period. They turned to SSDP for help and formed a chapter on campus.
Since that fall, the chapter has successfully organized events educating students on the ineffectiveness of drug testing and the benefits of having sensible policies. They received support and advice from SSDP’s executive director Aaron Houston and outreach director Devon Tackels. Various other chapters also reached out to Linn State students, including nearby Columbia College, which co-hosted events when the chapter was first forming.
Their work culminated in a federal class action lawsuit filed on behalf of six students, including former chapter president Sam Walker, by the American Civil Liberties Union in coordination with SSDP. “Our staff called the president of the college and promised to help sue him if he proceeded with his program,” says headquarter staff member Tackels. “And our team of scrappy, pro-bono lawyers and law students who serve on our student-led board of directors drafted SSDP’s amicus brief in the case.”
U.S. District Judge Nanette K. Laughrey analyzed the six goals of the program, which were centered around improving the learning environment and preparing students for potential on-the-job drug testing, and found them largely unsatisfactory according to case precedent. The ruling notes that these six goals “do not even mention preventing accidents or injuries caused or contributed to by drug use, and instead focus on goals like improving retention and graduation rates.”
Though Linn State will seek to appeal the decision according to the school’s attorney, the ruling is a victory for students who spent two years advocating for their rights.