Federal Judge Blocks Unconstitutional Mandatory Drug Testing Policy at Missouri College

October 26, 2011 2:15 pm

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Ruling in ACLU Lawsuit Comes Day After Judge Blocked Florida Law Requiring Welfare Applicants to Pass Drug Test in Separate ACLU Case

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – A federal judge late Tuesday ruled that a policy at a public college in Missouri forcing students to submit to mandatory drug tests as a condition of their enrollment is unconstitutional.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Eastern Missouri filed a lawsuit in September charging the policy violates the constitutional rights of the students at Linn State Technical College, and on Tuesday U.S. District Court Judge Nannette Laughrey agreed to extend an injunction blocking its implementation.

“Forcing students to submit to a drug test absent any suggestion of any sort of criminal activity is clearly unconstitutional,” said Jason Williamson, staff attorney with the ACLU Criminal Law Reform Project. “This policy is an unprecedented intrusion on the constitutionally protected privacy rights of students, and nothing like it has ever been sanctioned by the courts.”

The ruling Tuesday came a day after a federal judge in Florida blocked a law in that state requiring welfare applicants to pass a drug test before receiving benefits, saying it may violate the Constitution’s ban on unreasonable searches and seizures.

“It is important that people remain protected from unreasonable, suspicionless government searches and seizures,” said Maria Kayanan, associate legal director of the ACLU of Florida and the lead counsel in the ACLU’s lawsuit challenging the Florida law.

A two-year, publicly funded college, Linn State is the first public college in the country to attempt to require students, all of whom are at least 18 years old, to submit to mandatory drug testing. The drug testing policy has been instituted despite there being no documented problems with drugs in the college’s 50-year history and no reason to suspect that the students being tested have used illegal drugs.

Adopted last month, the policy required all first-year degree- or certificate-seeking students, as well as those students returning to the college after a leave of a semester or more, to pay a $50 fee and submit to testing by the collection and analysis of their urine. Students began to be pulled out of their classes the day after the policy was adopted so they could be tested, and a refusal to submit to the test would have resulted in students being dismissed from the college.

A copy of the ACLU’s lawsuit challenging the Linn State policy is available online at: www.aclu.org/criminal-law-reform/minter-et-al-v-claycomb-et-al-complaint

A copy of the judicial order in the Florida case is available online at: www.aclufl.org/pdfs/2011-10-24-ACLUTanfOrder.pdf

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