College sued for requiring drug tests for students

If one Missouri college prevails in court, universities may soon be able to mandate student drug testing.

Linn State Technical College in Linn, Mo., plans to test all incoming and some returning students, the Huffington Post reported. For the testing to occur, students would be charged $50 in fees.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against the technical college last month, on behalf of students, to challenge the constitutionality of the test.

Prior to this, the federal judge presiding over the case–U.S. District Judge Nanette Laughrey in Jefferson City–granted a temporary restraining order in September and issued a ruling Tuesday that extended the order through Nov. 8.

Phoebe Williams, an associate professor of law at Marquette, said drug testing has been fought in public institutions as a violation of the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unwarranted searches.

Therefore, for drug testing to stand, there must be probable cause or reason for the testing.

Williams said that Linn State seemed to justify this testing because the technical college has students who work with machinery, which could be a safety concern. She also said drug testing does not need to be constitutionally justified in private schools or businesses.

Marquette, as a private institution, could theoretically require drug testing for students without being in danger of violating the Fourth Amendment. Marquette student-athletes already are required to take drug tests as part of NCAA regulations.

“The NCAA Drug-Testing Program was created to protect the health and safety of student-athletes and to ensure that no one participant might have an artificially induced advantage or be pressured to use chemical substances,” the NCAA states on their website.

Michael O’Hear, professor of law and associate dean of research at the Law School, has expertise in the area of criminal enforcement of drug laws.

“A positive drug test could probably support criminal charges, but I think it is rare for someone to be prosecuted solely on that basis,” O’Hear said.

O’Hear also said surveys indicate a large percentage of drug users are 25 or younger, with drug use peaking between the ages of 18 and 20.

John Mantsch, associate professor and chair of the department of biomedical sciences, said drug testing could be used as a deterrent to drug use on college campuses, but the university would have to question both the constitutionality of the testing and the cost.

“… It becomes a matter of priority,” Mantsch said.

Mantsch said most drug use on college campuses seems to be recreational and social, but there has been a recent rise in increased drug use to reduce stress and facilitate studying. He also said recent trends identified by the National Institute on Drug Abuse suggest that while the abuse of some drugs among high school and college aged students is going down–like cocaine–overall drug use is the highest it has been in several years, with the increase largely driven by marijuana and prescription drugs.

The most notable drugs of the latter category are Adderall and painkillers such as Oxycontin, he said.

Joe Kvartunas, a sophomore in the College of Communication, said the issue of drug testing at Linn State could violate rights but promote safety.

“In a situation where it’s a technical school, it is a safety issue,” Kvartunas said.