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Mandatory Room Scans of Student Homes During Online Testing Constitute Unreasonable Searches

In the case of Ogletree v. Cleveland State Univ., N.D.Ohio No. 1:21-cv-00500 (Aug. 22, 2022), a federal district court held that mandatory room scans of student homes during online testing constitute unreasonable searches under the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

In this case, the student argued that students have a reasonable expectation of privacy in their own homes; there were other policies that could be used to help prevent cheating on tests; and the university did not mandate room scans but, instead, only offered such scans as an option for professors and proctors. In response, the university argued that the room scans were minimally intrusive, necessary to protect the integrity of the tests, and the most effective method of protecting such integrity. The federal district court agreed with the student.

In support of its decision in favor of the student, the federal district court explained that the minimally intrusive nature of the room scans was irrelevant because “’the Fourth Amendment’s protection of the home has never been tied to measurement of the quality or quantity of information obtained.’” Opinion and Order at 21. The federal district court further explained that:

Though reasonableness under the Fourth Amendment does not require employing the least intrusive means, the efficacy of the means [the university] has chosen to advance its purpose is a factor in determining reasonableness. Without question, other procedural safeguards would advance the same purposes — indeed, [the university] employs some of them. Also, pedagogical alternatives to tests for assessing students, for instance, a final project or paper, might minimize or eliminate the need for remote scans. [The student] points to several ways in which students may cheat regardless of the use of room scans. Besides pointing to the potential deterrent effect, [the university] does not offer much argument or evidence to support the efficacy of room scans. Perhaps experience with room scans is too recent or not extensive enough to offer much in this regard. Whatever the case, a record of sporadic and discretionary use of room scans does not permit a finding that rooms scans are truly, and uniquely, effective at preserving test integrity.

Opinion and Order at 23.

To read this case, click here

Authors: Matthew John Markling and the McGown & Markling Team.

Note: This blog entry does not constitute – nor does it contain – legal advice. Legal jurisprudence is like the always-changing Midwestern weather. As a result, this single blog entry cannot substitute for consultation with a McGown & Markling attorney. If legal advice is needed with respect to a specific factual situation, please feel free to contact a McGown & Markling attorney.

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