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Students appeal federal judge's ruling in favor of IU's vaccine requirement

The judge's ruling might be the first of its kind regarding college immunization mandates.

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — A group of Indiana University students is appealing a federal judge's ruling that said the university can require its roughly 90,000 students and 40,000 employees to get COVID-19 vaccinations.

In a ruling dated July 18, U.S. District Judge Damon Leichty in South Bend rejected a request from eight IU students who sought to block the requirement while they pursue a lawsuit seeking to overturn it, claiming it would violate their constitutional rights by forcing them to receive unwanted medical treatment. 

RELATED: Federal court rules in favor of IU's vaccine requirement

Their lawyer, James Bopp, Jr., said Tuesday he had appealed the ruling on behalf of the group. Bopp said he believes the ruling is the first by a federal judge in a challenge to such mandates, which have been imposed by hundreds of U.S. colleges.

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“We are committed to continuing the students’ fight,” Bopp said.

The students also asked the district court to stop the university from enforcing its vaccine mandate while the appeal is pending. 

"Preventing enforcement of this mandate and continuing to fight is the only way to protect these students and guarantee that their fundamental constitutional rights are not violated," Bopp said.

RELATED: IU students file federal lawsuit over vaccine requirement

IU spokesman Chuck Carney argued the university's COVID-19 vaccination plan was designed "for the health and well-being" of all students, faculty and staff. 

IU will not require documentation that students, faculty and staff have received the COVID-19 vaccine by the fall semester. IU is still requiring everyone working or enrolled at any of its campuses to be vaccinated.

The change in requiring documentation comes after state lawmakers and Indiana's attorney general said it violates a new state law banning immunization passports by the government.