BATON ROUGE, Louisiana – Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry has filed a federal lawsuit against the state’s newest medical school, joining three students who claim the private institution is violating their rights by imposing a requirement to coronavirus vaccination for students.
Landry filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine, located in Monroe, after he and college officials exchanged letters about the vaccination requirement. Although Landry has threatened several institutions over vaccine requirements, this is the first time the GA has tested the rules in court. The action comes as a growing number of private institutions across the country turn to compulsory vaccination, with the delta variant causing a surge in COVID cases.
Landry has repeatedly accused the medical school, known as VCOM, of breaking federal and state laws with the vaccine requirement. VCOM officials have argued that they have a duty to protect both their students and the patients they interact with amid a growing pandemic. Medical school officials also said they have a process that students can use to request exemptions if they have religious objections or a disability that prevents them from receiving the vaccine.
The complaint was filed in the West District of Louisiana, based in Lafayette. Besides Landry, the three plaintiffs include Rachel Magliulo, Matthew Willis and Kirsten Willis Hall. They are asking the courts to issue a temporary restraining order against VCOM preventing the medical school from requiring the coronavirus vaccine as a condition of registration, and preventing VCOM from “retaliating, coercing, threatening or discriminating against complainants for exercising their right not to be vaccinated against their will. “
They are also asking for a permanent injunction.
The case was assigned to U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty, who former President Donald Trump appointed to the bench in 2018.
Landry and the students cite a Louisiana state law in their lawsuit that says a student can provide “written dissent” if he refuses to receive an institution-mandated vaccine. Their lawsuit also argues that because VCOM is located on the University of Louisiana at Monroe campus, the private medical school is subject to the rules that govern public universities.
“After receiving correspondence from the Louisiana Attorney General, VCOM changed its policy to accommodate student objections and allow ‘accommodations,’ but VCOM’s amended policy is nothing more than a farce with the main intention of refusing to allow students who refuse the vaccine to significantly continue their medical training and participate in its study program, ”says the lawsuit.
VCOM officials have said in repeated letters to Landry that students can request vaccine exemptions and that the committee responsible for reviewing exemption requests has yet to meet. A spokesperson for VCOM said four students had requested exemptions so far and that “no student has been denied the opportunity to attend VCOM classes because of their immunization status.”
VCOM officials also argued that the school is a private institution. In a letter attached to court documents, VCOM President Dr Dixie Tooke-Rawlins wrote that the school is leasing land from ULM and is working with the university “to provide Louisiana students with more opportunities in the matter. education and research “.
“While we fully recognize and accept that we are subject to Louisiana laws (as we would expect any private college operating in the state to be), we are a private college,” she wrote. .
In the same letter, Tooke-Rawlins wrote that she overheard Landry say in a radio interview that the president of VCOM was not vaccinated against the coronavirus, and called the president a man.
“I am a woman and I am fully vaccinated,” she wrote.
Landry and the students argue in their lawsuit that the rise of the highly transmissible delta variant of the coronavirus no longer makes vaccination imperative, because “VCOM frankly admits that the delta variant, the most prevalent variant, is resistant to ‘certain vaccines. ‘”
Doctors and health officials across the state have made the opposite argument, saying the vaccine is more important than ever. Louisiana hospitals have reported that more than 90% of their coronavirus patients are unvaccinated.
VCOM has argued in previous letters to Landry that it is the duty of the medical school to protect patients whose care has been entrusted to students.
“The College assumes the responsibility of the student and the supervising physician when providing supervision of the student providing care,” wrote VCOM officials. “Therefore, as a private college that takes responsibility for the care provided, VCOM requires that students in all four years receive the COVID-19 vaccination. This requirement is for both student safety and for vulnerable patients that they will be caring for. “