Med Students Opposed to Vaccine Lose Fight Over Masks, Tests

Kevin McGill

February 01, 2022

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Three students who last year won the right to refuse COVID-19 vaccinations while attending a north Louisiana medical school have lost their latest legal battle with the school over mask, testing and travel policies.

The three filed a lawsuit last year against the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine in Monroe and won a major victory when U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty ruled they were entitled to a religious exemption from the vaccine requirement. The college then agreed to exempt them to settle the suit.

But the students later accused the college of violating the agreement with discriminatory masking and COVID-19 testing requirements. They took issue with requirements that unvaccinated students wear masks in certain areas where those who were vaccinated could go unmasked, that unvaccinated students submit to weekly COVID-19 tests and that unvaccinated students be quarantined for 10 days after international travel.

Doughty, a Monroe-based judge in the federal court's Western District of Louisiana, refused to reopen the case in December. And, in a ruling dated Friday, he rejected a motion to hold the college in contempt. He wrote that the agreement reached last year allowed the Via College to implement "reasonable safety measures."

"Since the term 'reasonable safety measures' could include such things as masking requirements, testing requirements, quarantine requirements and restrictions on travel, VCOM will not be held in contempt for implementing those measures," he wrote in a ruling dated Friday. "Unlike the requirements the Court found excessive previously, these requirements allow the students to remain unvaccinated, to remain at VCOM, and to complete their academic requirements."

The college is a private institution but operates on the campus of the University of Louisiana at Monroe. Doughty ruled last year that the 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.
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