I know it’s the “Show Me” state, but this is ridiculous. A state technical college in central Missouri has begun what could be the most extensive drug testing policy at a public college or university in the United States.
More limited drug testing of college and high school students—say, of student athletes, or at private colleges—has been consistently upheld by courts at both the federal and state levels. But Linn State’s testing of the general student body appears unprecedented.
Administrators at the Show Me State’s only technical college are perversely proud of the unprecedented invasion of students’ privacy.
“It does appear our program is unique in its scope and breadth,” bragged Kent Brown, a Jefferson City attorney who represents the school, located about 100 miles southwest of St. Louis. “But there aren’t very many colleges as unique as ours.”
The administration at Linn State claims the tests are necessary to ensure student safety at a campus where the coursework includes aircraft maintenance, heavy engine repair, nuclear technology and other dangerous tasks.
They claim they surveyed “hundreds” of local employers, gauging widespread support for a requirement those same students will soon encounter in the job market, said Richard Pemberton, associate dean of student affairs.
“They’re going to be faced with this as they go into the drug-free workplace,” he said. “We want them to be prepared.” Guess you might as well get ‘em used to the corporate police state while they’re still young, eh, Richard?
All first-year students—including those pursuing general education degrees while studying accounting, communications, math and social studies, thus putting the lie to “safety” concerns over hazardous tasks—must comply with the piss-test requirement.
The rule kicked in on Wednesday, September 7, two weeks into the fall semester.
Returning students who took a semester or two off and are seeking a degree or certificate at the school’s campuses in Linbn, Jefferson City and Mexico, Mo., will also be forced to take the urine tests. Physical therapy students enrolled in cooperative programs between Linn State and two community colleges also must participate.
The mandatory piss tests are pissing off civil libertarians, who call the new rule a violation of Fourth Amendment constitutional protections against unlawful searches and seizures. The invasion of privacy is a likely lawsuit target, according to opponents of the tests.
“I’ve never heard of any other adult public educational institution that presumes to drug-test all of its students,” said Columbia attorney Dan Viets, a member of the Missouri Civil Liberties Association. “They’re trying to break some new ground here. I don’t think the courts will uphold it.”
Viets said a legal challenge is imminent unless the program is halted.
“I don’t know why they think they can get away with it,” Viets said. “I hope we don’t have to go to court. But if we have to we will.”
Brown, Linn State’s attorney, claimed the school is on firm legal footing. He said that more narrowly focused drug tests for students who, for example, work with heavy machinery or are in healthcare professions, are “not uncommon.”
The tests screen for 11 drugs, including marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine and oxycodone. Students who test positive can stay in school while on probation, but must test clean 45 days later to remain enrolled while also completing a bullshit online “drug-prevention” course or assigned to other, unspecified “appropriate activities” (that certainly sounds ready to be abused), according to the school’s written policy.
Of course, such tests always have the effect of discriminating against cannabis users, since your body loves the phytocannabinoids in marijuana as much as it loves its own endocannabinoids, and holds onto them for at least 30 days. Other, more dangerous drugs are usually out of the human body in three to five days. So pot users are the most likely to get caught.
The tests cost $50 apiece, which students will be forced to pay. Those who initially test positive but then test negative the second time will remain on probation for the rest of the semester and also will face an unannounced followup test.
“We wanted this to be more of an educational approach,” Pemberton claimed. “What we’re doing here is not as strenuous as in the workplace.”
“We’ve been very careful about treading on their rights to privacy,” he claimed. “When you do something that has the potential to violate someone’s rights, you have to be cautious.”
Viets said his group learned about the new program from Linn State students who are concerned about the drug tests.