Laughrey issues preliminary injunction in Linn State drug testing case

Preliminary order in effect until July trial

After the federal appeals court in January overturned her first preliminary injunction, U.S. District Court Judge Nanette K. Laughrey ruled Friday that — with a few exceptions — Linn State Technical College students still won’t have to take a drug test.

Laughrey issued an 18-page preliminary injunction blocking the collecting, or reporting the results, of drug tests conducted under a policy the Linn State Board of Regents adopted in June 2011.

Laughrey said her preliminary injunction remains in effect “until this case is decided on its merits,” and a July hearing remains scheduled.

Kent Brown, a Jefferson City attorney who represents the two-year state technical school, said in an e-mail Friday night the new preliminary injunction “specifically acknowledges the appellate court’s ruling that the policy adopted by the college is constitutional generally, and exempts specific programs identified by the higher court from the new order.”

Brown said Laughrey’s order “does not find that plaintiffs are likely to prevail in the final hearing,” but Tony Rothert, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri — which filed the federal lawsuit on behalf of Linn State students tested in September 2011 — disagreed.

In a news release announcing the judge’s order, the ACLU said Laughrey “ruled that most of the 500 students who were tested ... will likely succeed in their claim that the test violated their constitutional right to not be searched.”

When Linn State’s Board of Regents adopted the drug testing policy, they said it was in accordance with previous U.S. Supreme Court rulings that require technical and dangerous vocations to screen for drug use.”

The ACLU lawsuit originally argued the policy violated the constitutional rights of all Linn State students.

But the federal 8th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled: “Although Linn State’s drug-testing policy may have some unconstitutional applications, we are unable to say that it is unconstitutional on its face in every conceivable circumstance.”

The appeals court ruled the policy clearly could be applied to some areas of study, and Laughrey’s order on Friday said the injunction does not apply “to urine specimens collected from students who were or who have since enrolled in Linn State’s aviation maintenance, heavy equipment operations, and industrial electricity programs.”

However, the ACLU release said, students enrolled in the remaining 30 programs cannot be drug tested, at least until the July hearing.

Brown noted the order “also allows the college to submit additional evidence and request exclusion of other programs in light of the incomplete evidentiary record, which is common in preliminary rulings such as this one.”

The ACLU filed the federal lawsuit about a week after Linn State completed the first-time, required testing of new and returning students in September 2011.

In her order, Laughrey said: “The drug-testing policy was designed and implemented by Linn State’s administration and the only democratic check on this process was approval by a body of gubernatorial appointees who are largely insulated from public pressure and oversight.

“There is no indication that the policy was presented for public notice and comment like administrative regulations or that the policy was ever submitted for approval by any elected official.”

In the ACLU news release, Rothert said: “(Friday’s) decision affirms the privacy and personal dignity of hundreds of students who were forced to supply their college with urine samples before they could take any classes.

“Without a compelling need, a search of your bodily fluids is exactly the type of unreasonable search and seizure that the (U.S.) Constitution prevents the government from imposing.”

The Associated Press noted the ACLU has said it was unaware of any public college or university in the U.S. with a similar drug testing program.

Under the Linn State program, students who test positive for drugs could remain in school if they have a clean test 45 days later. They also must complete an online drug-prevention course or would be assigned to other, unspecified “appropriate activities,” according to the school’s written policy. They would remain on probation for the remainder of the semester and would face an unannounced follow-up test.

First coverage, posted at 2:59 p.m. Friday:

With a few exceptions, Linn State Technical College students won’t have to take a drug test.

U.S. District Court Judge Nanette K. Laughrey issued an 18-page preliminary injunction today, blocking the collecting, or reporting the results, of drug tests conducted under a policy the Board of Regents adopted in June 2011.

Laughrey said her preliminary injunction remains in effect “until this case is decided on its merits.”

A July hearing remains scheduled.

Also, she said, the injunction does not apply “to urine specimens collected from students who were or who have since enrolled in Linn State’s aviation maintenance, heavy equipment operations, and industrial electricity programs.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri filed the federal lawsuit on behalf of Linn State students tested in September 2011.

In a news release announcing Laughrey’s order, Tony Rothert, the ACLU’s legal director, said: “Today’s decision affirms the privacy and personal dignity of hundreds of students who were forced to supply their college with urine samples before they could take any classes.

“Without a compelling need, a search of your bodily fluids is exactly the type of unreasonable search and seizure that the (U.S.) Constitution prevents the government from imposing.”

Linn State is on spring break this week.

President Donald Claycomb said he had not read the judge’s ruling, and declined to comment until he consults with the school’s attorney and regents.

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