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Media Alerts - Kittle-Aikeley v. Claycomb - Eighth Circuit
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January 9, 2017
  Kittle-Aikeley v. Claycomb - Eighth Circuit
Headline In en banc rehearing, Eighth Circuit reverses prior ruling of three judge panel and affirms district court holding granting permanent injunction against mandatory drug testing of technical college students

Area of Law Fourth Amendment

Issue(s) Presented Whether the district court properly granted a permanent injunction prohibiting a technical college from fully implementing its new drug-testing policy requiring all incoming students to submit to urinalysis.
Brief Summary State Technical College of Missouri (Linn State) is a two-year technical college. Most of its educational programs require a significant percentage of hands-on training, some of it potentially dangerous. In 2011, Linn State adopted a policy requiring all new students to submit to drug testing in order to provide a safe and healthy educational environment, and to deter drug use and abuse among students. A group of students filed suit, alleging that the drug testing requirement violated students' Fourth Amendment right to be free of unreasonable searches. Following a bench trial, the district court upheld the drug testing requiring as applied to students in five programs involving the most safety risks to others. For the remaining 23 educational programs, the district court found the drug testing requirement to be an unconstitutional search in light of Linn State's failure to show that those programs posed significant safety risks to others. The district court granted an injunction prohibiting Linn State from drug testing students who enroll in these non-safety-sensitive programs. The district court also granted tentative attorneys' fees and costs.

On appeal, a divided panel of the Eighth Circuit reversed, finding that the district court erred in conducting a program-by-program analysis. The panel held that testing the entire incoming class of students was a reasonable and constitutional means of achieving Linn State's interest in providing "a safe, healthy, and productive environment for everyone who learns and works at [Linn State] by detecting, preventing, and deterring drug use and abuse among students."

The plaintiffs petitioned for and were granted rehearing en banc. On rehearing, the Eighth Circuit found no abuse of discretion in the district court's grant of a permanent injunction. It determined that there is a valid interest in deterring drug use among students engaged in programs posing significant safety interests to others which constitutes a "special need" for Fourth Amendment purposes. It further held that there was no error in the district court's decision to conduct a program-by-program analysis to determine whether each program posed a significant safety risk to others. This approach was in keeping with Supreme Court precedent differentiating between job categories designated for drug testing in determining the constitutionality of the testing.

The Eighth Circuit rejected appellants' arguments that safety concerns for the individual students themselves, and fostering a drug free environment, also constituted "special needs" justifying departure from the usual warrant and probable-cause requirements of the Fourth Amendment. Ultimately, the Court affirmed the district court's grant of a permanent injunction with respect to the non-safety-sensitive programs, and reversed the portion of the district court order requiring Linn State to refund the $50.00 fee students were assessed for the drug testing.

Judge Beam and Judge Loken concurred in part, and dissented in part.

The full text of the opinion may be found at

Panel En Banc

Date of Issued Opinion December 22, 2016

Decided Affirmed in part, and reversed in part

Docket Number 13-3264

Counsel Kent L. Brown for Appellants and Anthony E. Rothert for Appellees

Author Circuit Judge Wollman

Case Alert Circuit Supervisor Joelle Larson, University of Minnesota Law School

    Posted By: Joelle Larson @ 01/09/2017 01:18 PM     8th Circuit  

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