Civil libertarians were shocked when an 8th Circuit Court of Appeals panel upheld the drug testing of all students at the State Technical College of Missouri. While courts had been willing to uphold the testing of students involved with extracurricular activities, the mandatory testing of all students could lead to a very chilling effect upon the ability of many students to earn a good education.
From ABC News:
A federal appeals court on Thursday reinstated a judge’s 2013 ruling that a central Missouri technical college’s mandatory drug testing policy is unconstitutional when applied to all students.
The full 8th U.S. District Court of Appeals, in a 9-2 ruling, sided with the American Civil Liberties Union in reversing an earlier decision by a three-judge panel of the same St. Louis-based court. The panel overturned U.S. District Judge Nanette Laughrey’s permanent injunction that barred State Technical College of Missouri — formerly Linn State Technical College — from drug screening all of its roughly 1,200 students.
But Thursday’s 32-page ruling does uphold Laughrey’s permitting the college to drug test students in five programs involving safety-sensitive training — aviation maintenance, electrical distribution systems, industrial electricity, power sports, and servicing of Caterpillar heavy equipment.
On Thursday, the Eighth U.S. Court of Appeals in St. Louis, Missouri, issued a decision in which it overruled a panel of its own judges who had earlier held that all students entering the publicly-funded Linn State Technical College, now known as State Technical College of Missouri, could be subjected to random drug testing. That decision by the panel was a radical departure from earlier case law and shocked many civil libertarians across the country.
The ACLU of Missouri acted in cooperation with other civil liberties groups to litigate this matter. Tony Rothert, Legal Director of ACLU MO, said, “Under the Fourth Amendment, every person has the right to be free from an unreasonable search and seizure, including college students.”
The decision by the federal Court of Appeals upheld an injunction issued by the federal district court in Jefferson City, Missouri, prohibiting Linn Tech from implementing its unconstitutional drug testing policy. The Court allowed some drug testing of students enrolled in so-called “safety sensitive” programs involving work with heavy equipment and electrical machinery. However, the Court did not allow the college to test all applicants as it had previously proposed to do, and been permitted to do by the earlier decision of the circuit panel.
Attorney Dan Viets of Missouri NORML stated, “It is extremely important that we hold the line against continuing efforts to erode our Fourth Amendment rights, especially in the area of drug law and the futile effort to enforce marijuana prohibition.”
My sincere thanks to the ACLU of Missouri and Missouri NORML chapters for standing up for the privacy rights of students. The infringement upon civil liberties in one area is often a precursor for intrusions in any and all aspects of our lives. If you would like to get the scoop on the fight to protect and improve our freedoms in Middle America, I encourage you to check out Dan Viets’ radio show, “Sex, Drugs and Civil Liberties” Tuesdays, at 7pm Central, on KOPN 89.5.