Mandatory College Drug Testing

October 27th, 2011 by Andrea Bennett

One college’s controversial new policy starts a nationwide debate.

Brought to you by Liberty Mutual's
The Responsibility Project

Drug tests in college used to be administered only to student athletes, but as of this semester, Linn State Technical College, in Linn, Mo., will require all 1,200 of its students to submit a urine test to check for illegal drugs. The tests, which require a $50 fee per student, will be used to determine the presence of 11 drugs, including marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine and oxycodone, according the school’s written policy. Students who test positive can stay in school on probation, but must test clean 45 days later and complete an online drug-prevention course in order to remain enrolled.

Almost immediately after Linn State adopted the policy, the American Civil Liberties Union sued on behalf of several dissenting Linn State students. They won a temporary injunction and a hearing in the case began this week.

According to an article in the Columbia Missourian, the fact that Linn State is the first to enact a student-body wide drug testing policy is a point of pride for the school. “It does appear that our program is unique in its scope and breadth," Kent Brown, a Jefferson City attorney who represents the school, told the paper. "But there aren't very many colleges as unique as ours." Because of Linn State’s unique curriculum – coursework includes aircraft maintenance, heavy engine repair and nuclear technology – school leaders are arguing that the tests are not only necessary to ensure student safety on campus, but also to prepare students for the real world.

Columbia Tribune columnist Ralph Voss is taking Linn State’s side. He argues that the American Civil Liberties Union and its Missouri branch are taking an extreme stance, and because the students are enrolled at a public college, their privacy isn’t being invaded as they “are using public money to advance their education.”

And according to one prominent source, students nationwide are on Linn State’s side as well. A poll in The New York Times invited students over the age of 13 to comment on the following questions: “Can this policy help students at Linn State Technical College prepare for their future? Do you think some schools or student populations need it, or would benefit from it? How would you feel if you had to submit to a drug test at school? What about at work?”

At the time of this post’s writing, only 17 out of 76 respondents were seriously opposed to drug testing. The concept that drug screenings like Linn State’s actually prepared students for the real world seemed to resonate with many.  “Megan” suggested not only that schools should have random screenings once a month, but that teachers should also be screened. “Natalie” took another perspective, writing, “Although drug tests may be mandatory at Linn State Technical College, enrolling in the school is not.”

What’s your take? Are the screenings invasive, or good preparation for real life? Sound off here.