A federal district court in Ohio has declared the common practice of scanning rooms during online tests to be unconstitutional. The plaintiff was a student at Cleveland State University who was forced, because of health issues, to attend classes remotely. The university had a policy of allowing test proctors, at their discretion, to require students to scan their rooms before starting a test. This particular student objected, saying that he had confidential tax documents visible and that, because of the sudden notice, he did not have time to move them. When the proctor insisted, the student capitulated and then filed suit.

The court held that the room scan was a type of Fourth Amendment search, even though it was minimally intrusive. The court then turned to whether the state's interests outweighed the student's privacy concerns. The opinion accepted the university's concern about test integrity as important, but noted that it did not require room scans in all cases. It allowed proctors to use their discretion whether to rely on other measures in place or to require the students to scan their rooms. That discretion and the lack of evidence of efficacy, according to the court, required a finding that the students privacy rights took precedence.

Schools wishing to ensure test integrity during remote learning need evidence supporting the measures that they choose and they need to be consistent in their application of those measures.

Besides pointing to the potential deterrent effect, Defendant 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.


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