A settlement in students’ suit over med school vaccinations

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A settlement has been reached in a federal lawsuit in which three medical students sought an exemption from a north Louisiana medical college’s COVID-19 vaccination requirements on religious grounds.

In the settlement, signed Tuesday by a federal judge, the Edwards Via College of Osteopathic Medicine in Monroe formally agrees to exempt the students from the requirement. The judge had issued a temporary order in favor of the three students in August.

The students agree not to seek monetary claims and to stop pursuing a contempt motion alleging the college retaliated against the students in campus communications. The contempt motion said the college, in effect, blamed the unvaccinated students for curriculum changes including cancellation of international travel. The college denied the accusation, saying in a response that it was following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and that the cancellation affected all students.

The lawsuit was filed in early August and resulted in U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty issuing a temporary restraining order forbidding the college from forcing the students to get vaccines pending further action in the case.

The college is a private institution but it operates on the campus of the University of Louisiana at Monroe.

Doughty said the medical college’s collaborative agreement with the public state university makes it subject to state laws banning religious discrimination and permitting students to dissent from vaccine requirements.

Dr. Dixie Tooke-Rawlins, the president and provost of the college’s four campuses, issued a statement saying the college was pleased a settlement was reached. “We are pleased these three students will no longer be distracted from their studies,” the statement said.

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