UPDATE: NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The settlement may be off in a lawsuit filed by three medical students who sought an exemption from a north Louisiana medical college’s COVID-19 vaccination requirements on religious grounds. The students’ attorneys filed papers Tuesday in federal court in Monroe, seeking to submit an amended complaint in the lawsuit against the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine in Monroe.
Last month, a judge signed a settlement in the lawsuit. But the students say the college continues what they call discriminatory requirements that only unvaccinated students to wear masks indoors on campus and undergo weekly testing. A college spokeswoman says the requirements follow guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
BATON ROUGE, La. (KTVE/KARD)(August 17, 2021 8:08 p.m.) — Attorney General Jeff Landry’s Office issued a release saying a federal judge granted a temporary restraining order that will keep Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine (VCOM) from making COVID-19 vaccinations a condition for enrollment.
“Even during a pandemic, we must protect the rights of our citizens,” said Attorney General Jeff Landry. “I’m pleased with the court’s decision and glad these students can focus on what’s important; their education.”
According to the AG’s office, Solicitor General Liz Murrill, was instrumental in the outcome because of the work she did with the plaintiff students and their attorney.
“This is a win for the people of Louisiana who have sincerely held religious convictions and other reservations about these vaccines,” added Solicitor General Murrill. “The bottom line is that the law and constitution still apply. We are grateful to Judge Doughty for protecting their rights and upholding the rule of law and will continue to work toward an acceptable resolution.”
“We’re very happy with the decision,” said Michael DuBos the attorney representing the VCOM students. “We feel it is important to respect individual rights, especially in a time of crisis. If not, it sets a dangerous precedent.”
To read VCOM’s response to the lawsuit, click here.
MONROE, La. (KTVE/KARD) (August 4, 2021 12:38 p.m.) — Attorney General Jeff Landry has announced he is suing Edward VIA College of Osteopathic Medicine (VCOM).
KTVE and KARD have received a copy of the Motion for Temporary Restraining Order where AG Landry is defending three students of VCOM for refusing to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
According to the court documents, the medical school is asking that all students get vaccinated to continue their education in the VCOM program.
AG Landry says this is not legal because no one is legally able to require the COVID-19 vaccine.
Landry goes on to point out that the VCOM rules say a student can provide written dissent stating why they will not accept the vaccine. Landry says his clients all submitted written dissent and the school refused to accept it.
According to the lawsuit, the students say they have submitted their dissent and they are complying with VCOM’s policies and their deeply-held religious beliefs prohibit them from being required to receive a COVID-19 vaccine that was “derived from aborted fetal tissue.”
AG Landry says the three students claim VCOM has tried to compel them to comply with the vaccination requirement through threats, coercion and intimidation.
According to AG Landry and the students, VCOM allegedly threatened the students in the following ways:
- VCOM threatened to fail Plaintiffs from the program if they did not comply and threatened that if they failed out they would not be accepted to another medical school in the United States.
- VCOM threatened that Plaintiffs would be “black-balled” or ostracized in the medical community for refusing to take the COVID-19 vaccination.
- VCOM told Plaintiffs that they could not afford to fight it on the vaccine issue.
- VCOM’s COVID officer confronted Plaintiffs in public in the presence of other students over their refusal to submit to the vaccine.
- VCOM restricted the Plaintiffs from volunteering with faculty in clinical community events.
- VCOM threatened to prohibit Plaintiffs from engaging in hands-on events with fellow classmates, which occur on a weekly basis and which they are required to pass before advancing to the next block.
- VCOM told Plaintiffs that it did not honor any exemptions and that any exemption that was submitted would surely be denied.
- VCOM has given Plaintiffs previous deadlines to receive the COVID-19 vaccination or withdraw from the school.
- VCOM threatened Plaintiffs that their refusal to receive the vaccination could affect the residency letter that VCOM would send out when Plaintiffs applied for their residency programs. These residency letters are critical to students obtaining a coveted residency and are also confidential and not shared with the students, thus leaving VCOM free to follow through on this threat.
AG Landry is arguing that because VCOM did not have COVID-19 formally added to the Student Health Requirements policy they cannot force their students to receive the COVID-19 vaccination.
Landry adds to his argument that the CDC, ACIP nor USPTF, and the State of Louisiana have only recommended vaccinations for the Coronavirus for institutions of higher education, like VCOM.
In the argument, Landry says VCOM sent out an email that required all students to get the vaccine in order to graduate and under a subsection of that communication it says VCOM will not waive immunization or student health requirements for religious or personal preference.
Landry says this policy is in direct violation of the United States Constitution, the Louisiana Constitution of 1974, and express provisions of Louisiana statutory law.
Landry went on to say that VCOM’s health requirements policy says they cannot request a waiver based on religious or personal reasons; however, there was still a section that allowed students to request a waiver for the shot. Landry claims this is a contradiction between the request form and VCOM’s Student Health Requirements policy.
Landry also says VCOM’s requirement does not match up to the local health care providers in the area who are not requiring a COVID-19 vaccine for medical professionals to care for patients in facilities like St. Francis, Glenwood Regional Medical Center, P&S Surgery Center and Norther Louisiana Medical Center. Landry also pointed to ULM, VCOM’s collaborative partner, who does not have a vaccine mandate for their students or staff.
AG Landry says VCOM’s new guidance does not comply with Louisiana Law and their policy is structured to deny waivers rather than creating a meaningful way to notify the school of a student’s choice to opt-out.
We will continue to follow this story and bring you updates as they become available. We’ve included a link to the 33 page lawsuit, to view it click here.