At One College, a Fight Over Required Drug Tests

Ann McClure's picture

Linn State Technical College in Linn, Mo., informed students this semester that they would be required to submit to a urine test that would be checked for illegal drugs as a condition of studying at the college. Almost immediately, the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups sued on behalf of several dissenting Linn State students and have won a temporary injunction. The A.C.L.U. says Linn State is the first public college in the country to require all adult students to submit to mandatory drug tests. Linn State officials however, say the policy is legal and was developed in the interest of their 1,200 students.

The tests, which require a $50 fee per student, would be used to determine the presence of the following, according to the university: cocaine; amphetamines and methamphetamines; marijuana; opiates; PCP; benzodiazepines; barbiturates; methadone; methaqualone; propoxyphene; and oxycodone. A hearing on the case is scheduled for Oct. 25. Kent Brown, the college’s lawyer, discusses.

QUESTION Why did Linn State decide drug testing was necessary?

ANSWER There are several reasons that culminated in the decision. It was a progression, I would say. Several of the programs have been drug tested previously, either because there’s a federal or state law or regulation that requires it. The school has advisory councils that are made up of businesses that would be potential businesses to hire our graduates that support the program with their expertise, and those advisory councils have been surveyed and the majority of their comments is that drug testing is pretty well becoming the norm in their industries so there was that vector also that was moving toward drug testing. And the third thing that I would identify: the college has been moving toward its mission, which is preparing students for profitable employment and a lifetime of learning. And there was a feeling that the college wasn’t properly stepping up to prepare the students for getting jobs in industries where drug testing was becoming the norm and an unavoidable barrier to getting and keeping the good jobs in the industry. There was an educational motivation as well. And that, and other miscellaneous things, I think motivated the adoption of the policy.

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