Student from Noble Co. leads lawsuit against IU vaccine mandate

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NOBLE COUNTY, Ind. (WANE) – An Indiana University student from Noble County, Ryan Klaassen, is among the group suing the school over its COVID-19 vaccine requirement.

The lawsuit argues that IU’s vaccine mandate for the upcoming school year violates students’ rights as well as Indiana’s vaccine passport law that prohibits state and local governments from creating or requiring vaccine passports. It also says IU students are “treated differently and unequally” as a result of the mandate.

“They have a right under our laws and the Constitution to make medical treatment decisions for themselves,” said James Bopp Jr., the attorney for the plaintiffs. “They also have a right to bodily integrity, and that the government cannot inject a chemical into their body without their consent.”

The other seven student plaintiffs are two incoming freshmen, another incoming sophomores, a senior, an incoming first-year law student, a student pursuing a master’s degree and a doctoral candidate.

“So nobody in the state of Indiana no governmental authority is mandating anyone to be vaccinated, except for one government which is Indiana University,” Bopp said. “The irony is, is that students really have a very small risk of adverse effects by getting the COVID infection.”

The university is giving students the option to be exempt from rule for religious or medical reasons. Six of the eight have received exemptions, while the other two don’t qualify, according to the lawsuit.

However, Bopp Jr. said that students who are unvaccinated will be required to wear masks and follow other restrictions.

“So they are basically treated like they treated train the lepers, you know, century ago,” Bopp said. “I mean they’re being isolated, and they’re being identified.”

While only eight students are on the plaintiff, the attorney said he’s representing way more.

“I’ve interviewed more than 100 students who are upset,” Bopp said. “There are many parents groups and petitions. Parents and students in the 1000s that have been circulated. So, I think this is just the tip of the iceberg.”

The university declined an interview with WANE 15 on Wednesday, but sent the following statement:

The requirement for all Indiana University students, faculty and staff to be fully vaccinated before the return to school in August remains in place. 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. The university is confident it will prevail in this case. Following release of the Indiana attorney general’s opinion, our process was revised, with uploading proof of vaccination no longer required. The attorney general’s opinion affirmed our right to require the vaccine.

– Chuck Carney

Indiana University Director of Media Relations, Spokesperson

While nothing has been set yet, Bopp said he hopes there will be a hearing sometime early July.

IU’s fall classes begin Aug. 23.

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