From a policy perspective, society ought not to be discouraging people from going to college, and requiring a drug test may have that consequence.
By: Erika Ruiz
Drug testing is nothing new to campus athletes. Schools are eligible to drug test their teams and it wouldn’t be considered a violation.
But what about drug testing the whole student body on campuses? Missouri was in the hot seat recently for actually requiring their new and returning students to take a drug test upon starting the fall semester. That is, until the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) stood at the defense of the student body at Linn State Technical College.
According to the ACLU website, Linn State is the first public college in the country to attempt to require students, whom are at least 18 years old, to submit to mandatory drug testing. Students were required to pay a $50 fee and submit to testing by the collection and analysis of their urine. 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 follow-up test.
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, according to the toke of the town website.
“They’re going to be faced with this as they go into the drug-free workplace,” said Richard Pemberton, associate dean of student affairs.
“We want them to be prepared.”
“Forcing students to submit to a drug test absent any suggestion of any sort of criminal activity is clearly unconstitutional. This policy is an unprecedented intrusion on the constitutionally protected privacy rights of students, and nothing like it has ever been sanctioned by the courts,” said Jason Williamson, staff attorney of the ACLU Criminal Law Reform Project.
Just as Linn State in Missouri was requiring students to get drug tested, a federal judge in Florida blocked a law in October in which the state was requiring welfare applicants to pass a drug test before receiving benefits.
“It is important that people remain protected from unreasonable, suspicion-less government searches and seizures,” said Maria Kayanan, associate legal director of the ACLU of Florida, also the lead counsel in the ACLU’s lawsuit challenging the Florida law.
“Where do we draw the line?,” Criminal Justice student Jay Castillo remarked. “Since when do drugs affect the performance of students in the classroom? It’s so ridiculous. There are way more other problems colleges need to worry about. Like those pills people take to stay awake or be alert or something. Is that even considered cheating?”
Caroline Davies of The Observer wrote an article in February 2010, which targeted college students and the new trend of taking pills to stay alert with college work. Students are now taking drugs which are normally prescribed for neurological disorders including Alzheimer’s disease, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy, all of which boost acetylcholine in the brain, causing students to improve their alertness and attention.
“It is cheating. But whatever. You can take whatever you want and do whatever you want with your body. They’re going to suffer in the real world after college,” chuckled student of Business on the Grant campus, Carlos Contreras.
“Drug testing at SCCC? What a joke. We all know the targeted students would be us, the working people. Not the upper middle class,” Contreras said.
“It’s a dumb idea. It’s violating our rights. If someone shows peculiar behavior during class or submits work that seems eye brow raising, THEN testing should be done or something,” student Liberal Arts student Nick Shapiro remarked.
As a result, the administration at Linn State was ordered to hold off the drug testing after a federal judge extended a temporary restraining order. U.S. District Judge Nanette Laughrey in Jefferson City, Missouri granted a temporary restraining order in September, and issued a ruling that extended in through November 8. In addition, the ACLU asked the college to return the $50 to the accounts of students whom had been charged by the school for the testing program according to the Huffington Post.
Whether its drug testing students smoking marijuana or taking these alert pills, what are the chances of this testing occurring on campus? Not likely.
Steven Schrier, professor of political science and business law at SCCC commented with, “Going to college is not mandatory and it is a privilege. Nonetheless, from a policy perspective, society ought not to be discouraging people from going to college, and requiring a drug test may have that consequence. In today’s economy it is incredibly important to have the opportunity to go to college, though not legally mandated.”