Ogletree v. Cleveland State University

Representatives for a Cleveland State student, Aaron Ogletree, filed a lawsuit against Cleveland State University in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, with Judge J. Philip Calabrese presiding. The student was required to submit to a webcam search of his room before a class test, and representatives alleged a violation of the Fourth Amendment.

According to the case ruling, Cleveland State maintains some required testing procedures University-wide, but faculty members are allowed to implement remote testing requirements according to the faculty member’s discretion. Although the original syllabus included a mandatory room scan for exams, the student said his professor for the class removed the policy from the syllabus three days after the syllabus was distributed. 

In the spring semester of 2021, most Cleveland State University classes were remote at the time of the incident. During this time, the student suffered from health issues that impacted his immune system and could not pass the Daily Health Assessment required to attend in-person classes. The student had to take classes remotely from his home. 

The morning of the exam, Cleveland State Testing Services emailed the student to inform him that a proctor would be checking his identification, surroundings, and materials. According to the opinion of the case, the student replied to the email explaining that he “currently [had] confidential settlement documents in the form of late arriving 1099s scattered about [his] work area and there [was] not enough time to secure them.” Just before the exam began, the student was asked to perform a room scan of his bedroom, and the student complied.

Representatives of the student alleged violations of the Fourth Amendment, which includes “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures,” according to the United States Constitution. The court sided in favor of the student. Civil rights attorney Matthew Besser explained that the ruling for this case appears to be the first in the United States to find that the Fourth Amendment protects students from “unreasonable video searches of their homes before taking a remote test.”

On September 2, Cleveland State University Office of the Provost sent an email to students regarding this decision. According to the University email, “the case is still active before the Court, and has not been finally resolved,” and the email reiterated that course instructors determine assessment policies for courses. The email further explained that students were welcome to utilize the Cleveland State University Library or other community testing sites. The email also clarified that any room scans would only be visible to “[Cleveland State University] officials with a legitimate need to review the video.”

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