University Webcam Search and Seizure

Cleveland State University just learned a lesson about students’ rights. I’m Amy Feldman.

Before taking an exam in a remote chemistry class, students at Cleveland State University had to let school officials conduct a scan of the room where they were taking the test via their webcams to ensure they weren’t cheating. One of the students took the test in his bedroom, where he claims he had both his personal tax documents and his medication. He sued the school, claiming that scan was a violation of the Fourth Amendment, which requires any state actor who wants to conduct a search of someone’s home or property to have probable cause to believe he’s done something illegal and then must get a warrant to conduct that search.

While the university has a legitimate interest in preserving the integrity of its test, the court decided the framers of the Constitution would never have let a school official physically enter a student’s home without a warrant to search for evidence he might cheat. Neither, said the court, can the school do so now electronically. I’m Amy Feldman at

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