A federal appeals court has found that requiring college students to take a drug test as a condition of enrollment violates the U.S. Constitution. The ACLU filed a class-action lawsuit against Linn State Technical College (now known as State Technical College of Missouri) on behalf of several students who were required to take a drug test in order to remain enrolled.
In a 9-2 ruling, the 8th U.S. District Court of Appeals reversed an earlier court decision by a panel of judges in a St. Louis court.
“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 court upheld an injunction issued by the trial court prohibiting State Technical College of Missouri from implementing the policy.
“Students should not be required to sacrifice their constitutional rights in order to further their education, and we’re thrilled that the court has permanently struck down the policy,” says Jason Williamson, senior staff attorney at the ACLU’s Criminal Law Reform Project, and co-counsel on the case. “Our victory should serve as a warning to colleges and universities across the country: mandatory, suspicionless drug testing of the entire student body is inefficient, ineffective, and grossly unconstitutional.”
Supporters of the policy argue that the college’s motivation was for safety reasons. The school’s curriculum includes a focus on technical and vocational training.
The ruling upholds allowing the school to drug test students in five programs involving safety-sensitive training — electrical distribution systems, aviation maintenance, industrial electricity, servicing of Caterpillar heavy equipment and power sports.
The ruling could be appealed.