INDIANAPOLIS – Eight Indiana University students filed a federal lawsuit Monday in Fort Wayne challenging Indiana University's “draconian” COVID-19 vaccine mandate. The suit alleges that IU has violated both the students' constitutional rights as well as Indiana's vaccine passport law.
One of the students is Ryan Klaassen – an incoming sophomore from Noble County. He did not immediately return a message seeking comment.
The policy requires every student to take the vaccine, but the university backed off requiring proof after Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita issued an opinion that the IU's policy ran afoul of the new prohibition on vaccine passports.
Conservative lawyer James Bopp Jr. of Terre Haute is lead counsel on the case.
A news release said IU “is not seeking voluntary consent from its students to take the COVID vaccination – it is coercing its students under threat of virtual expulsion to take a vaccine even though the risks associated with the vaccine, especially for college-age students, are serious and increasingly recognized, and students are at an extremely low risk of adverse effects if they get a COVID infection.”
A statement from Indiana University said 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,” the statement continued. “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.”
The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana instead of southern Indiana where IU is located.
If a student refuses to get vaccinated, there are “strong consequences,” according to the suit – including canceled class registration, terminated student ID and restrictions from participation in any on-campus activity.
The university is offering medical and religious exemptions. But Bopp says the exemptions don't go far enough. For instance, they don't include those with a natural immunity to COVID from a previous infection.
All three COVID-19 vaccines in the U.S. have received emergency use authorization by the FDA.
Bopp said the medical community is increasingly acknowledging the risks and side effects of COVID vaccines, including myocarditis, Bell's palsy, blood clots in the lungs and severe allergic reaction. These emerging risks are especially prevalent for those 18 to 29 years old, he said.
Bopp didn't provide statistics or studies to bolster his claims.
“The risk of an IU student dying from COVID is far less than the risk of an IU student dying from any number of other causes, including homicide, car accidents, suicide and poisoning,” the news release said. “And the risk of a COVID infection to others in the general population, who are not required to be (vaccinated), exceeds the risk to college aged student by up to almost 1,000 times.”
Bopp notes that no other government entity, “not the FDA, not the CDC, not the State of Indiana, not any county government and not any other Indiana public university requires a COVID vaccination.”