FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
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THE AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION OF EASTERN MISSOURI RESPONDS TO LINN STATE TECHNICAL COLLEGE STATEMENT
ST. LOUIS, October 12, 2011--Linn State Technical College has embarked on an unprecedented course of action in forcing students to take drug tests without cause for suspicion. The American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri (ACLU-EM) believes their policy is an ill-considered and dangerous attack on fundamental American liberties.
On August 15, the ACLU-EM sent Linn State Technical College President Donald Claycomb a letter informing him that the school’s new policy on mandatory drug testing is unconstitutional. We explained at some length how the policy would infringe on the students’ rights—including their Fourth Amendment right to freedom from unreasonable search and seizure—and explained the Supreme Court decision that had a bearing on this situation.
We learned that on September 7, the college began removing students from class to collect samples for drug tests. On September 14, the ACLU-EM filed suit on behalf of students who had been subjected to the testing and who object to this violation of their constitutional rights. That same day, we sought and obtained a court order forcing Linn State to stop the testing.
The College issued a press release on October 6 saying they had attempted to involve us in the “design and administration” of the program. This is false. The university did not put forth any meaningful effort to obtain our input on the program in the design stages. In any event, there would have been no way to constitutionally tailor their procedures; we had already suggested the only legitimate solution--that they make the program truly voluntary. A truly voluntary program would be a useful service to some students while respecting the constitutional rights of everyone.
As it stands, the policy forces students to pay their own money to prove their innocence and bars them from furthering their education if they exercise their constitutional right to refuse. Linn State is the only public college in the U.S. to require students 18 years or older to submit to mandatory drug testing as a condition of their enrollment. No hedging about the “right to petition to be excused from testing,” constitutes legitimate due process or cures the constitutional violation. Students who choose to fight for and exercise their rights should not be put through hearings and other complicated procedures. History is replete with examples of just such policies and procedures designed to discourage, isolate, and even brand people who step forward to assert their rights.
Colleges and universities traditionally have been the arenas in which young people find their voices and become engaged, knowledgeable citizens.
Linn State Technical College has pleaded for help “to defend itself against the American Civil Liberties Union,” describing itself as “a small institution that’s been brought into an expensive legal battle.” Ironically, the “Goliath” to Linn State’s “David“ in this scenario is not the ACLU-EM but the Bill of Rights and the rule of law. The way to avoid an expensive legal battle is simply to institute a truly voluntary drug-testing program. Don’t force your students to petition the College President to keep their constitutional rights.
We hope that Linn State College will stop diverting public and philanthropic dollars away from legitimate educational needs in order to take away students’ clearly established constitutional rights. President Claycomb should, instead, recognize this opportunity to express the university’s support for the rule of constitutional law. Linn State is understandably proud that it “takes seriously its responsibility to deliver quality technical education to students…” Surely the mission is also broad enough to encompass helping them become successfully aware, engaged citizens.
The ACLU will adhere to its mission of defending the Bill of Rights. We will not go away because of some well-funded legal opposition. The cost to liberty would be too dear.
Brenda L. Jones
?American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri