On Tuesday, the ACLU of Maine hosted the second of three regional conferences that we are putting on this fall for high school students around the state. We provide these all-day conferences to schools because we think it’s important to teach students about the Bill of Rights and why it matters to them. One of the topics we focused heavily on during our conference in Farmington this week was the Fourth Amendment, with a special emphasis on how it plays out in a school setting when the party being searched is a student. Ironically, at the very same time as we were talking about student rights and the Fourth Amendment here in Maine, halfway across the country there was talk of student rights and the Fourth Amendment as well – though the venue in this case wasn’t a classroom, but rather a courtroom.

First, a little background:  Last month, officials at a public college in Missouri began removing students from classes in small groups in order to collect urine samples for drug screening. This mandatory, suspicionless drug-testing program was carried out on all incoming students – with a non-refundable fee of $50 tacked on to boot. As the nation’s most committed defender of the Fourth Amendment, the ACLU stood up to this violation of student rights and filed a lawsuit in federal court to stop the practice. The judge in the case issued a temporary restraining order at the time, which briefly halted the program.

Then on Tuesday, after a seven-hour hearing, Judge Nanette Laughrey took an important next step towards blocking the program for good by granting our preliminary injunction against the school. In doing so, she referenced all of the ACLU’s key arguments and agreed with us that the program violated the students’ Fourth Amendment rights. Instead of impacting a specific subset of tech students whose work might involve operating heavy machinery, the school’s policy treated every single student as a suspect, an overbroad approach that violates the Constitution and the guarantee that every citizen be secure against unreasonable searches and seizures. (Oddly enough, a mere 24 hours before our victory in Missouri, we secured another great Fourth Amendment decision on drug testing when a district court judge in Florida sided with the ACLU and ruled against a new law mandating drug tests for all applicants to the state’s TANF program.)

One of the key points we stress when we speak with high school students is that the Constitution doesn’t just get thrown out the window for them simply because they’re in school. Students have rights as well, and Tuesday’s ruling in Missouri is a welcome example of that. Young or old, the Fourth Amendment protects all of us against unreasonable searches, including this sort of warrantless, suspicionless drug testing. It's an important point to stress, and one we just may bring up next week, when we host over 200 high school students in Belfast to discuss issues just like these.