In a conclusive 9 to 2 vote, the 8th U.S. District Court of Appeals has ruled that drug testing all college students is unconstitutional.
The Thursday ruling reinstates a 2013 ruling that a Missouri technical college’s mandatory drug testing policy is unconstitutional when it is applied to all students regardless of their area of focus. The ruling, which was championed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) , reverses an earlier decision by a three-judge panel.
“Fostering a drug-free environment is surely a laudable goal”, Judge Roger Wollman stated in the court’s majority opinion, but; “Linn State has not demonstrated that fostering a drug-free environment is a ‘special need’ as defined by the U.S. Supreme Court.”
Although the ruling found it unconstitutional to test all college students, the court did leave it open for colleges to drug tests students involved in five particular programs; aviation maintenance, electrical distribution systems, industrial electricity, power sports, and servicing of Caterpillar heavy equipment.
In the dissenting opinion, Judge C. Arlen Beam wrote that colleges have a right to drug test their students; “a severe, relevant and discernible drug crisis supportive of Linn State’s actions does exist and has existed every moment relevant to this litigation.”
Beam adds that the court erred; “in rejecting Linn State’s reasoned conclusion that its suspicionless drug testing and screening program ensures safety and deters harm to every student.”
The ACLU, which filed the class-action lawsuit in 2011, praised the ruling.
“Students should not be required to sacrifice their constitutional rights in order to further their education; we’re thrilled that the court has permanently struck down the policy,” says Jason Williamson, senior staff attorney at the ACLU’s Criminal Law Reform Project. “Our victory should serve as a warning to colleges and universities across the country; mandatory, suspicionless drug testing of the entire student body is inefficient, ineffective, and grossly unconstitutional.”