A judge found it illegal to video scan a room before an online test

CLEVELAND (AP) — Cleveland State University violated a student’s Fourth Amendment right to privacy when it required him to use a webcam to show his bedroom before taking an online test, a federal judge in Cleveland has ruled.

Matthew Besser, an attorney for student Aaron Ogletree, said the lawsuit was filed last year to stop the university from using illegal practices designed to prevent cheating, and that Ogletree is not seeking monetary damages.

The ruling, issued Monday by U.S. District Judge J. Philip Calabrese appears to be setting a precedent for students’ privacy rights, Besser said.

“Freedom from government intrusion into our homes is at the heart of what the Fourth Amendment protects,” Besser said. “If there’s one place where students have a reasonable expectation of privacy, it’s in their homes.”

Ogletree initially protested, but had his room scanned before a chemistry exam, fearing he would receive a failing grade if he disobeyed, Besser said.

In his ruling, Calabrese ordered Besser and the Cleveland state’s attorneys to meet to determine the next step in the case. In the order, he said Ogletree’s right to privacy “overweighs the interest of the state of Cleveland in scanning his room.”

Cleveland State spokesman David Kilmaier said Tuesday that the school cannot comment on “active litigation.”

“Ensuring academic integrity is essential to our mission and will guide us as we move forward,” Kilmaier said.

In the lawsuit, Ogletree said the COVID-19 pandemic forced him to attend classes online during the school’s spring 2021 semester to protect the health of his family members.

The decision on whether to require students to show their rooms before an exam is at the discretion of individual teachers and is not enforced by all teachers, Ogletree said in the lawsuit. The room scan is visible to other students taking the test, Ogletree’s lawsuit says.

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