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Indiana University students sue school over COVID-19 vaccine requirement

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Students at Indiana University are suing the school for requiring students to get the COVID-19 vaccine. The eight students who filed the federal lawsuit allege the university’s mandate violates their constitutional rights as well as the state’s law.

The suit alleges the vaccine requirement violates the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which includes rights of personal autonomy and bodily integrity, and the right to reject medical treatment. It also claims the university’s requirement violates a state law barring state or local government organizations from requiring “vaccine passports.”

However, vaccine requirements are being implemented at many schools and workplaces across the U.S., including California’s two largest university systems and hundreds of other universities.

In addition to all Indiana University campuses, many other universities in the state require students get the COVID vaccine.  

Protesters holding placards gather at Indiana University's
Protesters holding placards gather at Indiana University’s Sample Gates during the demonstration on June 10, 2021. 

Jeremy Hogan/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The students involved in the lawsuit range from incoming freshmen to Ph.D. and law students at the university. The school said there will be consequences for those who refuse the vaccine and do not receive an exemption, including canceled class registration, terminated university-issued IDs, and restricted on-campus activity.

The university does allow vaccine exemptions due to religious objections, a documented allergy to the vaccine, medical deferrals, and for online students in a completely online course with no on-campus presence. 

The lawsuit alleges that even those who are granted exemptions are subject to extra requirements, include requiring mitigation testing twice a week, a mandatory quarantine if exposed to someone who tests positive for COVID and mandatory face masks in public spaces. 

Those who are vaccinated are also eligible for incentives, such as a student parking permit, bookstore gift card, on campus dining credit, Apple watch, AirPods Pro, credit for full-time in-state tuition, and season tickets for the Indianapolis Colts or Indiana Repertory Theatre, according to the suit. 

The lawsuit alleges that the committee who decided on the vaccine mandate reached that decision without any evidence. The students argue the university’s mandate “is contrary to the fundamental tenet of medical ethics which require voluntary and informed consent for any procedure, or drug that imposes a medical risk to an individual.”

However, the CDC recommends that eligible Americans “should be vaccinated regardless of whether you already had COVID-19.” 

The CDC also recommends that all teachers, school staff and children over the age of 12 “get a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as you can,” as “widespread vaccination is a critical tool to help stop the pandemic.”

Earlier this month, some Indiana University Health employees protested the system’s vaccine mandate, holding a demonstration on campus. 

In a statement to CBS News, a university spokesperson said “the requirement for all Indiana University students, faculty and staff to be fully vaccinated before the return to school in August remains in place.”

“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,” the statement continued. The spokesperson said the university is “confident it will prevail in this case.”

Indiana’s attorney general released an opinion on the school’s vaccine requirement in May, saying it was illegal under the state’s law, which bans state or local governments from issuing or require vaccine passports.”

In the statement, the university spokesperson said the school has revised its vaccine process and no longer requires people to upload proof of vaccination. “The attorney general’s opinion affirmed our right to require the vaccine,” the spokesperson said. 


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