Chicago, Illinois – The eight students who have sued Indiana University over its COVID vaccination mandate filed their opening brief with the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals last week. The students argued the district court was wrong to deny their motion for preliminary injunction.
In May this year, IU announced it will be requiring all students, faculty, and staff to receive COVID vaccinations before they can return to IU for the fall semester with stringent and limited exemptions for those with religious or medical exemptions. Even if a student is granted an exemption they are still subject to rigorous extra requirements, regardless of why they received an exemption, including masking, regular testing and possible quarantining. In June, The Bopp Law Firm, on behalf of IU students, filed a federal lawsuit against IU to preserve students' rights to bodily integrity and autonomy, and of medical treatment choice.
Students filed a motion for preliminary injunction, which was denied by the district court on July 18th. Students then appealed to the Seventh Circuit. On August 27th, IU moved to dismiss the appeal, because they claimed that the students now lacked standing to sue since class at IU had started, which the Seventh Circuit subsequently denied. With today's filing, the constitutional challenge against IU's Mandate continues.
The students argue that the district court erroneously denied the injunction, because it reviewed the Mandate under the rational basis standard of review, that gives great deference to IU's decision, which is employed when no constitutional rights are infringed. The district court based its decisions upon a 1905 U.S. Supreme Court decision, before the recognition of robust protection to bodily integrity and autonomy and medical treatment choice. The student urge the appellate court to recognize the changes in constitutional law that has occurred since then and impose the burden of proof on IU to demonstrate that their Mandate is justified and necessary to advance an important governmental interest.
“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,” states James Bopp, Jr., lead counsel in the lawsuit. “However, IU students are free adults are entitled to make their own medical treatment decisions. 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 in issuing its Mandate. IU is a government actor and cannot infringe upon the students' fundamental rights without a compelling justification, which does not exist now for college-aged students.”
Read Students' Opening Brief here.