Supreme Court Declines to Hear Appeal Challenging University Vaccination Requirement

masked student on campus

The United States Supreme Court has declined to hear an appeal of a case that denied a request by students at Indiana University to stop the university’s vaccination requirement for all students reporting to campus for in-person classes this fall semester. The request was denied unanimously by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. The case, the first attempted appeal to reach the U.S. Supreme Court concerning COVID-19 in the context of an educational institution, challenged the longstanding jurisprudence allowing schools to require vaccinations since the days of smallpox outbreaks.

The university’s vaccination requirement contains exceptions for students who can demonstrate a medical mandate not to be vaccinated or who claim a religious or ethical objection to vaccination. These exemptions come with the stipulation that students refusing vaccination are tested two times a week for COVID-19 and wear masks on campus. The Seventh Circuit upheld the lower court’s denial of the preliminary injunction, noting that the university’s policy allowed for exceptions and was therefore “clearly constitutional.”

In upholding the denial of the preliminary injunction, the Seventh Circuit noted that “[h]ealth exams and vaccinations against other diseases (measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, varicella, meningitis, influenza and more) are common requirements of higher education. Vaccination protects not only the vaccinated persons but also those who come in contact with them, and at a university close contact is inevitable.”

The eight students in the Indiana case claimed that the requirement violated their constitutional rights to “bodily integrity, autonomy and medical choice.” The students conceded, however, that the broad exemptions to the requirement put in place by the university “virtually guaranteed” an exemption to anyone who wanted one.

Pittsburgh Education Attorneys

With more than 500 colleges and universities across the nation requiring vaccination of students, additional challenges in the educational arena will likely be forthcoming. The Lynch Law Group will continue to monitor developments in higher education and regarding COVID-19 generally.

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