At DC Student Defense, many of the questions that we’re getting from our clients right now involve the COVID -19 vaccine. We’ve previously posted about the growing trend of universities implementing vaccine mandates for the fall semester.
However, a major court decision in July has developed the legal question of whether universities are allowed to require their students to get vaccinated.
What exactly was decided in this ruling? And what does it mean for students attending universities in the Washington, DC area?
The Ruling on Indiana University’s vaccine mandate
On Monday, July 19, U.S. District Court Judge Damon R. Leichty in Indiana ruled against a group of eight students who were suing Indiana University over the university’s vaccine requirement. They claimed that the mandate violated their Fourteenth Amendment rights to bodily integrity and autonomy.
Here’s how Leichty summed up his ruling:
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.
Additionally, he argued that the university has already made sufficient allowances for students’ Fourteenth Amendment rights by carving out exemptions for students with medical and religious objections, as well as students who are not attending classes in person.
This ruling upholds that the university’s vaccine mandate does not violate its students’ constitutional rights. However, the decision did not weigh in on whether the university’s vaccine mandate violates Indiana’s “immunization passport” law — one of many similar laws across the country that ban state entities from requiring proof of vaccination.
The plaintiffs’ attorney vowed to appeal Leichty’s ruling, and it’s almost certain that similar lawsuits will be popping up around the country this year. Whether challenging university vaccine mandates on a constitutional basis or a statutory basis, it’s entirely possible that this issue could find its way to the Supreme Court in the near future.
What this Means for DC students
So this significant ruling has established precedent in Indiana that universities are within their rights to require their students to get vaccinated. But what about DC?
As of July, these 7 universities have officially announced a vaccine mandate for Fall 2021:
- American University
- Gallaudet University
- George Washington University
- Georgetown University
- Howard University
- Trinity Washington University
- University of the District of Columbia
There have not yet been any judicial rulings on the constitutionality or legality of these vaccine mandates in DC. However, there are a number of lawsuits in the pipelines already regarding similar issues.
The main takeaway for students around the country should be that there is now legal precedent for universities implementing COVID -19 vaccine mandates. That means that any legal challenge to a DC university’s vaccine mandate will face an uphill battle..
If you have any questions about these vaccine mandates, or you are being accused of a COVID -19 violation by your university, contact a student defense attorney in the DC area.
Contact a DC Student Defense Attorney Today
At DC Student Defense, we have experience representing clients who have been accused of violating their university’s COVID-19 regulations. It’s our goal to protect your rights and make sure you are receiving the full benefit of the education you’re paying for. Contact us today to talk about your case.
These materials have been prepared by Cohen Seglias for informational purposes only and are not intended and should not be construed as legal advice.