The US District Court for the Northern District of Indiana affirmed Monday that Indiana University (IU) can require its students to get vaccinated before the fall semester resumes.
The university’s COVID-19 policy mandates students and staff to be vaccinated unless they qualify for a medical, religious, or ethical exemption. The exemption also extends to those enrolled in fully online programs. Students will also need to wear masks, maintain social distancing, and quarantine in the event of infection.
Students who do not qualify for an exemption and still refuse to get the jab will not be allowed to sit for classes.
Eight students sued the university in June, arguing that the requirement violated their 14th Amendment rights to “personal autonomy and bodily integrity,” therefore asking for a preliminary injunction to halt the school’s policy.
Represented by the Bopp Law Firm in Terre Haute, Indiana, the students also argued that they were opposed to the vaccine due to its lesser-known long-term effects and their lower risk of developing symptoms because of their age.
Comparing the university’s vaccination policy to the Tuskegee syphilis study — an infamous, abusive laboratory experiment between 1932 and 1972 in which African-American men were given syphilis and left untreated — the students said the current mandate stood in opposition to medical ethics.
The court has now denied the motion for a preliminary injunction, blocking the challenge to the vaccine requirement. Judge Damon R. Leichty of the US District Court wrote, “The Fourteenth Amendment permits Indiana University to pursue a reasonable and due process of vaccination in the legitimate interest of public health for its students, faculty and staff.”
The ruling also pointed at the exemptions offered by the university, saying that students have “multiple choices, not just forced vaccination.”
IU spokesman Chuck Carney told NPR he appreciates the “quick and thorough ruling.” He also said the school is looking forward to “welcoming everyone to the campus for the fall semester.”
The aggrieved students, however, plan to appeal the judge’s decision. “Today’s ruling does not end the students’ fight,” Bopp stated.