Judge rules video scan of room before online testing illegal

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

Matthew Besser, the attorney for student Aaron Ogletree, said that the lawsuit was filed last year to stop the university from enforcing an illegal practice aimed at preventing cheating and that Ogletree is not seeking monetary damages.

The ruling Monday by U.S. District Judge J. Philip Calabrese appears to set a precedent regarding student privacy rights, Besser said.

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

Ogletree initially protested but scanned his room before a chemistry test, fearing he would receive a failing grade if he did not comply, Besser said.

Calabrese in his ruling ordered Besser and attorneys for Cleveland State to meet to determine what the next step in the case will be. He said in the order that Ogletree’s right to privacy “outweighs Cleveland State’s interests in scanning his room.”

Cleveland State spokesperson David Kielmeyer said Tuesday the school cannot comment on “active litigation.”

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

Ogletree said in the lawsuit that the COVID-19 pandemic forced him during the school’s 2021 spring semester to take classes online to protect his family members’ health.

The decision whether to require students to show their rooms before a test is left to the discretion of individual professors and is not enforced by all instructors, Ogletree said in the lawsuit. Room scans are visible to other students who are taking a test, Ogletree’s lawsuit said.

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