Bar Exam

Bar examinee not permitted to finish test because of high temperature

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When Alaina Arroyo woke up Wednesday morning, her first thought was to get ready for Day Two of the Nebraska bar exam. Then she remembered that wasn’t going to happen because her temperature had registered at 101 degrees on Tuesday, and she was told to leave the testing site.

According to Arroyo, she arrived on Tuesday, Feb. 22, around 7:15 a.m. to take the test. Part of the jurisdiction’s COVID-19 safety plan for the in-person bar was to have the temperatures of all examinees taken. Arroyo says there was no one from the health department available to take her temperature when she arrived, so bar staff told the 2021 Creighton University School of Law graduate to get situated in the room where she planned to take the bar.

Carole McMahon-Boies, administrator of the Nebraska Supreme Court’s attorney services division, entered the testing room with someone from the health department about 15 minutes into the Multistate Performance Test, according to Arroyo.

“She had warned me ahead of time that they would interrupt my test to take my temperature. I thought that was weird,” says Arroyo, who claims she was not feeling sick and had no COVID-19 symptoms.

Her temperature was taken three times, and it registered at 101 for each attempt, according to Arroyo. Then, she adds, McMahon-Boies told her to leave the building.

“It was kind of dramatic. She was like, ‘You’re done. Get out,’” Arroyo says. She claims that four hours later, her temperature registered at 98 degrees. She also took a home COVID-19 test, which she says was negative. Arroyo posted photos of both on Twitter.

Alaina Arroyo Alaina Arroyo took the Nebraska bar exam.

She thinks her testing temperature was related to things other than being sick, such as experiencing a stressful situation, wearing a mask inside, drinking a large quantity of coffee and having her period. All of those things, Arroyo adds, can make a person’s body temperature go up.

In a statement, McMahon-Boies said the state bar cannot discuss a specific candidate. The writing mentions a document for February 2022 Nebraska bar exam candidates, which states that examinees with fevers at or above 100.4 would be excluded from participating in the exam.

Also, McMahon-Boies’ statement says a registered nurse who worked for the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department checked all of the examinees’ temperatures.

“Those with temperatures above 100.4 were placed in the next examination cycle without having to pay a new application fee. The National Conference of Bar Examiners offers the Uniform Bar Examination twice per year. There is no testing allowed without the National Conference of Bar Examiners offering the examination,” the statement read.

A spokesperson for the National Conference of Bar Examiners told the ABA Journal it could not answer questions about whether other test-takers had experiences similar to Arroyo’s.

“Each jurisdiction is responsible for making its own determinations about how best to safely administer the in-person bar exam based on local conditions and health orders,” she wrote in an email.

The Nebraska code of conduct does not require all examinees to get COVID-19 tests before the bar exam. It does, however, detail various situations in which examinees need to present proof of a negative COVID-19 test, such as testing positive for the virus or coming into contact with someone who had within 14 days of the bar exam.

“I had no symptoms, no exposure or anything,” says Arroyo, who now wishes the state would require negative COVID-19 tests for all examinees.

“I think that would have prevented a lot of problems. There are plenty of reasons why someone might have a low fever when taking a test. If we could have eliminated the possibility it was COVID, that probably would have saved my entire situation,” she adds.

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