Being required to take a drug test for a job is relatively common. A 2011 poll conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management and commissioned by the Drug and Alcohol Testing Association found that over half of all employers conduct drug tests on prospective employees.
Safety in the workplace is the main reason that organizations require a drug test at work, and a Missouri college recently decided that drug testing in schools was a good idea, too—over one thousand incoming students at Linn State Technical College were subjected to mandatory drug tests to “prepare students for the workforce.”
According to Linn State Technical College’s website, the school is Missouri’s only public two-year college with a statewide mission specializing in technical education. Linn State students have access to over 35 programs offering technical training in both new and traditional technologies. Since 1995, an impressive 95% of Linn State graduates have found gainful employment or continued their education within six months of graduation.
Considering that Linn State is mostly geared toward technical training, the college decided to require urine drug tests of all students after surveying an advisory council of industry and business leaders, reports The Chronicle of Higher Education. Eighty percent of those polled supported the drug tests. Several of the college’s programs include hands-on training with machinery, electronics, and even nuclear technology. Richard R. Pemberton, who is Linn State’s associate dean of student affairs, says that drug testing in schools might help prepare students for drug-free work environments after graduation.
It’s not believed that the school has a drug abuse problem that is worse than any other college or university, but Linn State Technical College’s Drug Screening FAQs claim that the school is now conducting drug tests “to prepare students for profitable employment and a life of learning. Drug screening is becoming an increasingly important part of the world of work. It is also believed it will better provide a safe, healthy, and productive environment for everyone who learns and works at LSTC by detecting, preventing, and deterring drug use and abuse among students.”
NCAA college athletes and students at private colleges and universities are sometimes subjected to drug tests, but the Associated Press reports that Linn State’s new requirement is likely the most far-reaching drug testing in school in the country. “It does appear that our program is unique in its scope and breadth,” Kent Brown, the attorney who represents the Linn State, told reporters. “But there aren’t very many colleges as unique as ours.”
“It’s not a matter of catching them doing something wrong and kicking them out of college,” associate dean Pemberton explained to The Chronicle. “The whole process is meant to be educational.” He added that students who test positive for drug use will not be turned over to legal authorities. Students who test positive will also be given a second chance to take another drug test. The tests screen for 11 drugs: amphetamines/methamphetamines, marijuana, opiates, phencyclidine, benzodiazepines, barbiturates, methadone, methaqualone, propoxyphene, and oxycodone.
All first-year students as well as students returning after one or two semesters away from school are subject to the tests, which are $50. Students that are enrolled in cooperative programs between Linn State and other local colleges are also required to take drug tests. Students that test positive for drugs will be placed on probation and be required to complete an online educational program, but a second positive result will result in a student-initiated withdrawal or an administrative withdrawal from Linn State.
As expected, Linn State Technical College is making headlines for its new policy. Fox Nation reports that the mandatory drug screenings have drawn the ire of civil libertarians who think the school has gone too far. “I’ve never heard of any other adult public educational institution that presumes to drug-test all of its students," attorney Dan Viets, who is also a member of the Missouri Civil Liberties Association, told the media. “They’re trying to break some new ground here. I don’t think the courts will uphold it.”
Linn State argues that drug tests for employees who work with heavy machinery or in some health professions are common, and they are simply preparing students for the workforce after graduation. “There is absolutely no data to support the notion that drug testing improves safety," Viets argues.
New students were told about the drug testing in school this spring prior to their enrollment and again during fall orientation, and The Chronicle reports that nearly all of the students signed an agreement to be tested. “I don’t think a lot of us are bent out of shape," first-year Linn State student Brian Crider told the Associated Press. “I think it’s a good idea. It helps us prepare for the real world,” he said, echoing Linn State’s sentiments.
On the other hand, one writer at The Spectrum, the University at Buffalo’s independent student newspaper, feels otherwise. “The problem is, the students are the ones employing the college not the other way around. If anything, the students should demand drug tests of the faculty and staff of the college,” the writer surmises. “Drug tests like this defer the college’s responsibility to educate its students and fail to help students who have actual addictions to drugs. It seems like Linn State is admitting that they don’t want to spend any money on students’ well being and just kick them out for being a problem.”
Quite different than Linn State’s opinion, but there are two sides to every story. What do you think of mandatory drug tests for college students?
Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.
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