When I saw this story in my Google news alerts today, I thought for sure there must be some mistake. Nope, no mistake. Linn State Technical College, a 1,200-student two-year college just outside of Jefferson City, Missouri, plans to require all incoming freshmen to submit to mandatory urinalysis drug testing. The screening will test for 11 drugs, including marijuana, and students who test positive will be kicked out unless they test clean after 45 days and take a drug-prevention course or engage in other unspecified activities. For good measure, students will have to pay $50 for the tests themselves (no word on whether the test actually costs $50) and will not be reimbursed if they pass.
It’s an unprecedented invasion of privacy — no public college has ever required mandatory drug testing of its entire student body. There are some high schools that drug test students, mostly those participating in sports and other extra-curricular activities, as the Supreme Court has upheld suspicionless drug testing in only limited circumstances. Not surprisingly, evidence shows that making students pee in a cup is not an effective deterrent of drug use.
Ironically, the college claims it’s testing its students to help them prepare for their life after school in the United States where it claims most employers drug test. As the ACLU rightly points out, there’s no reason an institution of higher learning can’t accomplish this by, you know, educating their students. And for the record, I’m an attorney, I’ve held at least six jobs since graduating from college, and I’ve never been forced to take and pass a drug test as a precondition of employment.
Speaking of the ACLU, if you or someone you know is a student at Linn State, they’re looking for plaintiffs to help challenge this policy in court. Hopefully some good old-fashioned public outcry will solve this problem without the help of courts.