Indiana students sue over COVID-19 vaccine requirement

The students claim the school's mandate violates their rights.

June 22, 2021, 1:14 PM

Students at Indiana University filed a federal lawsuit Monday, suing the school over its COVID-19 vaccination requirement.

The lawsuit alleges that the university violates students' rights as well as Indiana's vaccine passport law. The recently passed law prohibits state and local governments from creating or requiring vaccine passports. In the lawsuit, the students claim that they are being coerced into vaccination and that if they do not comply, they face "the threat of virtual expulsion from school."

The lawsuit argues that with the United States' outbreak receding, universal vaccination at the school isn't necessary. "As the numbers continue to decline, such draconian measures as requiring all students to be vaccinated is not reasonable," it reads.

Flowers bloom on the campus of Indiana University in Bloomington, Ind., April 23, 2019.
Kelly Wilkinson/IndyStar via Imagn Content Services, FILE

Earlier this month, school administrators announced that students would have to verify their vaccination status with the school unless they applied for a medical or religious exemption. Those without exemptions can have their class schedules canceled, their student IDs deactivated and won't be allowed to participate in on-campus activities, according to 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," Chuck Carney, university spokesperson, told ABC News in a statement in response to the lawsuit. "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 added.

"The university is confident it will prevail in this case," Carney said.

People with signs gather at Indiana University's Sample Gates to protest against mandatory COVID vaccinations that the school is requiring for students, staff and faculty during the upcoming fall semester, in Bloomington, Ind., June 10, 2021.
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The lawsuit comes after a group of Republican lawmakers wrote a letter to Indiana University President Michael McRobbie last month, asking him to "to reconsider and rescind" the mandate. Days later, the state attorney general issued a non-binding opinion stating that public universities are “arms of the state” and therefore they must abide by the law banning vaccine passports.

"Following release of the Indiana attorney general’s opinion, our process was revised, with uploading proof of vaccination no longer required," Carney said. "The attorney general’s opinion affirmed our right to require the vaccine."

Indiana lags slightly behind the national average in vaccinations. As of Monday, 44% of residents had received at least one dose, and 40% were fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. By comparison, 53% of Americans have gotten at least one shot, and 45% are fully vaccinated.

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