POSTED BY MARTIN KICH
In an article for Reason, Jacob Sullum reports:
“Last week a federal appeals court ruled that requiring incoming students at a state college to surrender their urine for drug testing violates the Fourth Amendment’s ban on unreasonable searches. . . .
“Linn State Technical College, now known as the State Technical College of Missouri, started demanding incoming students’ urine in 2011 because members of its advisory council thought it was a good idea, not because there was any reason to believe the school had any special drug-related safety problems.
“‘Accidents are not common at Linn State, and the college has not attributed any accidents to student drug use,’ the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit notes in its decision upholding a federal judge’s injunction against the college’s drug testing program. ‘Linn State had no reason to believe that it had a student druguse problem greater than any other college’s.’ . . .
“The majority opinion, written by Roger Wollman and joined by eight other judges, emphasizes that Linn State’s drug testing requirement applied to all students, whether or not they were enrolled in ‘safety-sensitive’ programs such as aviation maintenance or industrial electricity. Why should a student learning design drafting have to pass a drug test, Wollman wonders, when ‘the district court found that, based on Linn State’s evidence, the greatest danger the program presented was “that a student might accidentally trip and fall while navigating uneven ground during a site visit”’?
“The 8th Circuit says the lack of category-specific safety concerns distinguishes this case from Supreme Court decisions upholding drug testing of railway workers after accidents and people seeking U.S. Customs positions that involve carrying guns or interdicting drugs. The appeals court adds that adults attending a college with no special history of drug problems are constitutionally distinct from minors attending high schools facing a real or perceived substance abuse ‘crisis,’ a context in which the Supreme Court has approved testing of all students participating in sports or other competitive extracurricular programs. ‘Linn State’s drug testing policy was not developed in response to any crisis,’ the court notes. ‘Most significantly, Linn State’s students are not children committed to the temporary custody of the state.’”
Noting that one of the two dissenting judges emphasized that the ACLU has consistently opposed any sort of mandatory drug testing and has inserting itself into these kinds of cases, Sullum closes: “Maybe that’s because the ACLU sees its mission as protecting constitutional rights rather than facilitating their violation. ‘We shouldn’t treat students seeking to better their lives through education with immediate suspicion,’ says ACLU of Missouri Legal Director Tony Rothert. ‘Under the Fourth Amendment, every person has the right to be free from an unreasonable search and seizure—including college students.’”
The complete article is available at: reason.com/blog/2016/12/27/federalappealscourtnixesblanketdrug.