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Fight over IU COVID-19 vaccination mandate heads to US Supreme Court

Both a district court and a federal court of appeals denied the students fighting the mandate.

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — The fight over Indiana University's vaccination mandate has reached the U.S. Supreme Court.

After both a district court and a federal court of appeals denied the students fighting the mandate, their attorney filed with the Supreme Court. They are asking for the court to prevent IU from enforcing its COVID Vaccination Mandate while their appeal is pending. An opinion is expected in the next week.

“Continuing our fight against this unconstitutional mandate is necessary to guarantee that IU students receive the fair due process they’re owed by a public university,” said James Bopp, Jr., lead counsel in the lawsuit. “An admitted IU student’s right to attend IU cannot be conditioned on the student waiving their rights to bodily integrity and autonomy and to consent to medical treatment like IU has done here. Both the district court and the court of appeals applied the wrong law to Students’ claims—mental patients who have objected to antipsychotic drugs have received greater consideration from the courts than have the Students here. Under the proper review, IU cannot meet its burden of proof that it properly balanced the risks (both known and unknown) of the COVID vaccine to college-age students against the risks of COVID itself for college-aged students before issuing its Mandate.“

IU's policy requires students to be vaccinated to attend the university,  and the Associated Press reported that the appeals court ruling said students who don't want to get vaccinated can seek "ample educational opportunities” elsewhere.

The ruling found that since universities can already require surrendering property or requiring students to read or write about certain things, it was "hard to see a greater problem with medical conditions that help all students remain safe while learning."

The federal appeals court also found that it would be hard for a university to function when "each student fears that everyone else may be spreading disease."

Credit: WTHR

A district court judge's ruling found that the university was acting reasonably "in pursuing public health and safety for its campus communities."

IU will not require documentation that students, faculty and staff have received the COVID-19 vaccine by the fall semester. IU is still requiring everyone working or enrolled at any of its campuses to be vaccinated. The change in requiring documentation comes after state lawmakers and Indiana's attorney general said it violates a new state law banning immunization passports by the government.

Those who have received the vaccine can certify their status as part of an attestation form. Students, faculty and staff found to be lying could face punishment.  

People can apply for medical or religious reasons, or for an online exemption for those not present on or near campus. The university will be able to decide whether or not to grant an exemption. Exemptions details are included in the form. IU's Medical Response Team and other designated IU leaders will review exemption requests, responding within five business days.

The attorney representing the students challenging the mandate argues that even if a student is granted an exemption they are still subject to rigorous extra-requirements, regardless of why they received an exemption.

Wearing a mask on campus will be optional for those students, faculty and staff who are fully vaccinated. There will also be no social distancing requirements for those who are fully vaccinated.

Students, faculty and staff who are fully vaccinated will not need to participate in mitigation testing. Those who are fully vaccinated will also not need to quarantine if they are in close contact with a person who is later found to have COVID-19.


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