Judge Again Stalls Linn State Drug Testing

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JEFFERSON CITY - Judge Nanette Laughrey granted a preliminary injunction Tuesday, continuing to block a Linn State Technical College program of drug-testing every new student.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit September 14, asking Linn State to end the drug screening. The U.S. District Court then took the first step to block the program by issuing a temporary restraining order, and continued that process again Tuesday. Meanwhile, Linn State is studying the matter and discussing a possible appeal.

The ACLU argues the policy violates Fourth Amendment protection from unreasonable searches. It also claims the drug testing policy is overbroad, as it applies to all incoming students, not just those participating in dangerous programs. There is also almost no history of serious accidents at Linn State, and no evidence of drugs and alcohol as a factor in those accidents.

Linn State spent a majority of the time calling instructors as witnesses, each of whom testified to the particular dangers associated with the hands-on work of their educational programs. A counselor also said he had received fewer substance abuse referrels since the implementation of the drug testing policy this year than in past semesters. Attorneys also emphasized the ability of students to opt out of the program through a petition process, and the fact that students are not forced to attend Linn State.

In her decision, Judge Laughrey said the screening policy goes overbroad. She held the vague appeals process is not sufficient to outweigh the Fourth Amendment protections.

Linn State's attorney Kent Brown said, "Since Linn State is in such a unique position, both in terms of its programs that are offered as well as being one of the first programs in the nation, it's not surprising that the judge would be looking for guidance from the higher appellate courts and didn't find it in this case, and opted for the more conservative view which is to keep things as they are until they can be resolved in another forum."

"We're very pleased that the judge found that Linn State's drug testing program is unconstitutional, that it violates the Fourth Amendment. This really was an unprecedented attempt to try to drug test all students in a college, it's a little bit breathtaking how broad it was," said Tony Rothert, legal director for the ACLU of Eastern Missouri.