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Several students who want to attend in-person classes at Indiana University in the fall have filed a lawsuit that says the school’s COVID-19 vaccine policy is unconstitutional.
The policy requires students, faculty, and staff to be vaccinated or receive an exemption for religious or medical reasons before the fall term starts in August, according to CNN. Eight students filed the lawsuit on Monday in a district court in Indiana to ask a judge to prevent the university from enforcing the policy.
“IU’s Mandate violates the constitutional rights of IU’s students — it requires all IU students without any meaningful exemptions to take the COVID vaccine,” James Bopp, Jr., the lead attorney for the students, said in a statement.
Vaccine requirements are being put in place at universities across the country, according to CBS News. At Indiana University, students are required to get a vaccine, request an exemption, or attend classes online.
Exemptions can include religious objections, a documented allergy to the vaccine, or a medical deferral, the news outlet reported. Those who refuse to follow the policy may face canceled class registration, deactivated student IDs, and restricted on-campus activity.
Six of the eight students have received exemptions based on religious beliefs, and the other two don’t qualify for exemptions, CNN reported. The plaintiffs are two incoming freshmen, two incoming sophomores, a senior, an incoming first-year law student, a student pursuing a master’s in business administration, and a doctoral student.
Last month, Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita issued a statement that said Indiana University’s COVID-19 vaccine policy “runs afoul of state law.” Indiana law prohibits public universities from requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination but doesn’t prohibit them from requiring the vaccine itself, CNN reported.
Following Rokita’s statement, Indiana University changed its policy from requiring students to upload documentation of their vaccine status to asking them to fill out an online form. In the new lawsuit, the eight students argue that the form means they have to provide proof. The lawsuit also denounces requirements for unvaccinated students, such as mandatory face masks in public spaces, regular testing, and quarantines if exposed to someone with COVID-19.
But university officials told CNN that the latest policy won’t change.
“The requirement for all Indiana University students, faculty, and staff to be fully vaccinated before the return to school in August remains in place,” Chuck Carney, a spokesperson for Indiana University, said Tuesday.
“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,” he said. “The university is confident it will prevail in this case.”
CNN: “Students sue Indiana University in federal court over vaccine mandate.”
United States District Court, Northern District of Indiana: “Civil Case No. 1:21-cv-238.”
The Bopp Law Firm: “Lawsuit Filed By Students Against Indiana University’s COVID Vaccine Mandate.”
Office of the Indiana Attorney General: “Attorney General Rokita: Indiana University’s COVID-19 vaccine policy runs afoul of state law.”
CBS News: “Indiana University students sue school over COVID-19 vaccine requirement.”