Federal Judge Upholds Indiana University’s Vaccine Mandate | Franczek PC

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Yesterday, a judge in Indiana’s Northern District Federal District Court dismissed the issuance of a preliminary injunction that would have interrupted Indiana University’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for students. The move appears to be one of the first decisions confirming a vaccine mandate in the public sector.

In Klaassen v. Indiana University Trustees, eight Indiana University students sued the Indiana University board of directors after mandating the COVID-19 vaccine for students and employees, arguing that the mandate violated the Fourteenth Amendment and state law. The mandate requires that all students, faculty and staff be fully immunized before they return to campus in the fall. Students who did not respect the University’s mandate would be excluded from campus activities and their course registrations would be canceled. University policy recognizes religious and medical exemptions, subject to additional mitigation measures, such as continued mask wear, social distancing and COVID-19 testing.

At stake in court was a preliminary injunction to end the vaccine requirement while the rest of the case was decided. The students argued that the injunction was necessary because the vaccine’s mandate violated their Fourteenth Amendment right to bodily autonomy, religious freedom, and the ability to choose (or refuse) medical treatment. In addition, the students claimed that the university’s requirement to continue to wear a mask, test for COVID-19 and social distances for unvaccinated or exempt people violated their religious freedom by demanding action. additional for some students based on their religious beliefs. Ultimately, the students argued that the University’s vaccine requirement was an ultimatum that required them to choose between receiving the vaccine and continuing their college education. In contrast, the University argued that its vaccine mandate was enacted to protect University students and employees following a public health crisis.

In a 101-page opinion, the judge sided with the University, concluding that the students had failed to demonstrate that they would suffer irreparable harm as a result of the University’s vaccination mandate, and concluding by besides that the University had acted reasonably in the interest of public health. In his analysis, the judge found that it was not uncommon for higher education institutions to require vaccinations, noting that Indiana state law requires all students at public universities to receive multiple vaccinations. , especially against tetanus and diphtheria. In addition, the judge was not convinced by the students’ claim on the Fourteenth Amendment, finding that the Fourteenth Amendment allowed the University to take reasonable measures, including compulsory vaccinations, to protect a legitimate public health interest. . The judge stressed that students have the right to choose whether or not to receive the vaccine, like any individual, but that choice is subject to “reasonable measures by a state designed to pursue legitimate purposes of controlling or eradicating the vaccine. disease”.

In addition, the judge ruled that there is no constitutional right to a college education. While students who refuse the vaccine may certainly be denied attendance at Indiana University, the judge noted that university policy gave them several alternative options: Students can get the vaccine, but not. beyond this option, they can request religious or medical exemptions, apply for medical deferrals, take a semester off, attend another university, or attend that university online. Therefore, although difficult, the judge noted that the students did, in fact, have choices, none of which amounted to coercion.

The judge pointed out that this decision was rendered in the context of a request for a preliminary injunction, and that the court has not yet examined the merits of the constitutionality of a COVID-19 vaccine mandate from a public institution. higher education. In addition, the students have indicated their intention to appeal the decision regarding the preliminary injunction before the start of the fall semester. We will continue to monitor this matter as it evolves and provide you with additional updates.

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