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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — The American Civil Liberties Union said it plans to appeal a federal court ruling that upheld a technical college's plan to force every incoming student to be tested for drugs.
Tony Rothert, legal director for the ACLU's Missouri chapter, told the Jefferson City News Tribune (http://bit.ly/1MnLlD2 ) that the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has given the organization until Jan. 4 to file a petition seeking a rehearing by either the same three-judge panel that issued the ruling earlier this month, or by all of the active 8th Circuit judges.
"We intend to request both," Rothert said. "While rehearing is difficult to obtain, we are fortunate in this case to have a majority decision that is poorly crafted and departs from 8th Circuit and Supreme Court precedent."
The ACLU filed the federal lawsuit in 2011 challenging a mandatory drug-testing policy Linn State Technical College's Board of Regents approved in June of that year. The school has since changed its name to State Technical College of Missouri.
The lawsuit argued the policy violated the students' Fourth Amendment right "to be secure . against unreasonable searches and seizures."
When it started the program, the school said the testing policy was intended "to provide a safe, healthy and productive environment for everyone who learns and works at Linn State Technical College by detecting, preventing and deterring drug use and abuse among students."
Under the policy, students had to pay a $50 fee for the drug test and could be blocked from attending if they refused to be tested.
U.S. District Judge Nanette Laughrey issued a ruling in September 2013 that limited the drug testing to five Linn State programs. But in its 2-1 vote earlier this month, the federal appeals court panel overturned her ruling as too narrow.
Writing for the two-judge majority, Judge C. Arlen Beam wrote that the school's roughly 1,200 students are primarily engaged in safety-sensitive and potentially dangerous curriculum "due to the unique nature" of the technical college's limited focus.
Federal judge Kermit E. Bye disagreed with the majority opinion and said in an eight-page dissent he would have upheld Laughrey's permanent injunction against the drug testing for "all but five of Linn State's academic programs."
Linn State "failed to present sufficient evidence demonstrating a special need for drug testing," Bye wrote.
Bye's dissent will help the ACLU make its case for a rehearing, Rothert said, meaning "the majority opinion should be an attractive candidate for review."
Information from: Jefferson City News Tribune, http://www.newstribune.com
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