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8 Indiana University students sue school, say vaccine mandate is unconstitutional

Indiana University
Posted at 3:02 PM, Jun 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-23 15:02:12-04

As college students prepare to return to campus for the 2021-22 school year, a legal battle is shaping up regarding school vaccine requirements.

In a lawsuit filed Monday, eight Indiana University students say a school policy requiring students to be vaccinated against COVID-19 violates their Constitutional rights as well as state law.

Indiana University requires students, faculty and staff to be vaccinated or provide a religious or medical exemption ahead of the start of the fall semester.

According to the school's website, unvaccinated students who do not meet a handful of exemptions will have their class registration canceled, and they will be blocked from participating in campus activities or accessing campus resources.

Staff members who are not vaccinated "will no longer be able to be employed by Indiana University."

However, the lawsuit alleges the rules violate the Fourteenth Amendment, which grants rights to "personal autonomy and bodily integrity" and the "right to reject medical treatment."

In a statement, The Bopp Law Firm — the firm that filed the suit — said that it was also concerned about the policy because the vaccines have only received approval for emergency use by the FDA and CDC.

"When a drug receives EUA, the FDA requires those taking the drug to be informed of both the benefits and the risks of the drug and that taking the drug is optional," the firm said in a statement. "These FDA requirements are consistent with modern medical ethics that require voluntary and informed consent for medical treatment, even if receiving the treatment can benefit others. The importance of an individual's bodily integrity and personal autonomy are protected by these important principles."

The lawsuit also claims that the mandate violates newly-passed state legislation banning the use of "vaccine passports."

In May, Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita ruled that Indiana could require students and staff to get vaccinated against the virus, but could not require them to provide proof of vaccination in order to return to campus.

According to CNN, as a result of that ruling, the school changed its policy from requiring students to upload proof of vaccination to simply filling out an online form.

The school says it will not change its policy despite the lawsuit.

"The requirement for all Indiana University students, faculty and staff to be fully vaccinated before the return to school in August remains in place," said university spokesperson Chuck Carney in a statement to USA Today. "As part of IU's response to the ongoing pandemic, the vaccine mandate is helping to support a return to safe and more normal operations this fall."

USA Today also reports that six of the students named in the lawsuit have already received religious exemptions from taking the vaccine. Two of the students say they did not qualify for the exemptions.

Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering