Attorney for Noble County student responds after judge affirms IU’s vaccine mandate

Local News

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – The attorney representing a Noble County student, as well as several others, has responded to a move by a federal judge after he ruled in favor of Indiana University’s vaccine mandate.

Judge Damon Leichty denied a request for an injunction against the policy over the weekend. Eight Indiana University students, including Ryan Klaassen, filed the lawsuit, arguing that the university’s policy violated the Fourteenth Amendment.

“Today’s ruling does not end the students’ fight—we plan to immediately appeal the judge’s decision,” James Bopp, Jr., said in a statement Monday. “In addition, we plan on asking the judge to put a hold on IU’s Mandate pending that appeal. We are confident the court of appeals will agree that the Mandate should be put on hold.”

IU announced the policy in June mandating that all students, faculty and staff receive the COVID-19 vaccine. The university allowed certain exceptions for medical or religious reasons. Those who are granted an exemption will have to undergo more rigorous COVID-19 rules, including testing and mask-wearing when on campus. Masks are optional for those who are fully vaccinated.

“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,” Bopp added. “An admitted IU student’s right to attend IU cannot be conditioned on the student waiving their rights to bodily integrity, bodily autonomy, and consent to medical treatment like IU has done here. IU’s Mandate did not properly balance the risks (both known and unknown) of the COVID vaccine to college-age students against the risks of COVID itself to that population and that college-aged students have a very low risk of adverse effects from a COVID infection. Furthermore, IU did not adequately consider the waning stage of the COVID pandemic before issuing its Mandate.” 

The policy has been embroiled in controversy since it was announced, with some Indiana lawmakers urging Gov. Eric Holcomb to rescind it. Attorney General Todd Rokita issued an opinion that the policy violated state law.

Ultimately, though, Judge Leichty said the Constitution allows IU “to pursue a reasonable and due process of vaccination in the legitimate interest of public health for its students, faculty, and staff.”

The university released a statement on the ruling:

A ruling from the federal court has affirmed Indiana University’s COVID-19 vaccination plan designed for the health and well-being of our students, faculty and staff. We appreciate the quick and thorough ruling which allows us to focus on a full and safe return.  We look forward to welcoming everyone to our campuses for the fall semester.

From the conclusion:

Even assuming in certain respects irreparable harm and an inadequate remedy at law, the students here haven’t established a likelihood of success on the merits of their Fourteenth Amendment due process claim, or that the balance of harms or the public’s interest favors the extraordinary remedy of a preliminary injunction, before a trial on the merits. The court thus DENIES their preliminary injunction motion [ECF 7].

Recognizing the significant liberty interest the students retain to refuse unwanted medical treatment, 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. Today, on this preliminary record, the university has done so for its campus communities. That leaves the students with multiple choices, not just forced vaccination.

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