Hey, there! Log in / Register

Students at two UMass campuses don't want to get Covid-19 shots, so they sue

A student at UMass Boston and one at UMass Lowell yesterday sued over their schools' requirements they get vaccinated against Covid-19 or be barred from campus this fall, saying the requirement violates their constitutional rights and that it's just not fair that they have to get what they consider risky shots when professors don't, especially since, they claim, masks and social distancing are just as good as shots.

In their suit, filed in Boston federal court, UMass Boston student Cora Cluett and UMass Lowell student Hunter Harris are asking a judge to declare the requirements unconstitutional and to make the schools let them return to campus in September with their arms unblemished from any needle marks.

The suit is at least the second filed by a local student who didn't want a shot. Earlier this month, a federal judge dismissed a New England Law student's suit, ruling the student had agreed upon enrollment to follow school policies in general and that he had signed a form agreeing to follow the school's Covid-19 policies in particular.

The UMass students charge that making them get shots violates their Fourteenth Amendment rights to due process, in part because "plaintiffs have an individual, fundamental right to refuse medical treatment," in part because the state itself has not mandated vaccinations for students.

Cluett also alleges her First Amendment religious rights are being violated because she "has a sincerely held religious belief that precludes her from taking the mandated vaccine."

Cluett is Catholic and the suit says UMass Boston rejected her claim after an administrator determined that the Catholic Church has no prohibitions against Covid-19 shots. In fact, the church, starting with Pope Francis, has repeatedly urged members to get vaccinated; the Vatican even turned a papal-audience hall into a vaccination clinic. The suit does not specify which specific Catholic tenets Cluett feels the vaccine violates.

Cluett would transfer if she could, but she has a large scholarship, which effectively precludes her from doing so, and besides, all the other public universities in the state also mandate Covid-19 shots, so she has no place to transfer to, the suit continues.

Judges have upheld other Covid-19 restrictions and requirements based on a 1905 Supreme Court decision involving a smallpox outbreak in Cambridge, in which the court ruled that public-health emergencies give officials the right to enact orders they might not otherwise be allowed to. But the students' attorney, Ryan McClane of Feeding Hills, says that case does not apply here because neither the governor nor the state Department of Public Health have mandated shots for students, and the schools have no such authority. Also:

The Supreme Court in Jacobson made its determination based significantly on the settled medical science regarding the smallpox vaccinations from “nearly a century” of its use, and in the instant case, we are dealing with three drugs that have been in existence less than one year and are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Yes, sure, the schools require shots for other illnesses, but those are mandated by the state Department of Public Health, not the schools, the complaint states.

The complaint then alleges that the vaccines can kill people, based on reports from a federal database that itself cautions:

VAERS reports alone cannot be used to determine if a vaccine caused or contributed to an adverse event or illness. The reports may contain information that is incomplete, inaccurate, coincidental, or unverifiable. In large part, reports to VAERS are voluntary, which means they are subject to biases. This creates specific limitations on how the data can be used scientifically.

The complaint, however, is not a scientific paper and so continues that both schools have low rates of Covid-19, and that "mask wearing, temperature checks and self-reporting," as required for students who are given exemptions to vaccination, "are purportedly effective in preventing the spread of COVID-19," so the students shouldn't be forced to get a shot on pain of not being allowed to take classes this fall.

Complete complaint (1.5M PDF).

Neighborhoods: 

Ad:
Like the job UHub is doing? Consider a contribution. Thanks!

Comments

Garnish that scholarship and apply it to UMass’s legal costs when she loses this frivolous suit.

up
Voting closed 95

Being so desperate to do business with the University of Massachusetts on your terms that you sue them because they don’t want potential virus carriers on their property.

What’s the (expletive) point? Withdraw and enroll in the University of South Florida.

up
Voting closed 86

That is the one possibly valid part of this complaint. It should be resolved by extending the mandate to everyone working on campus.

up
Voting closed 60

I too find it weird professors aren’t required being that they most likely fall into a demographic that is more affected by the virus than students. The majority population (students) already have a 99% survival rate without the vaccine. I also agree that masks and social distancing are equivalent to the vaccine as far as preventing transmission and they aren’t unwilling to wear them. I think that the case would’ve easily been tossed if the requirements were for everyone but this makes it different

up
Voting closed 26

It either runs afoul of their employment contract or there may be some sort of collective bargaining agreement or union that prevents them from mandating it for professors.

up
Voting closed 23

Until one of the vaccines gets full approval for 18+ (Pfizer has already applied), the faculty contract would almost certainly preclude a vaccine mandate. This is no different from Fire or Police unions.

If there were, heaven forbid, a measles or worse, a smallpox outbreak, you bet your tootsies that the unis would enforce a vaccine mandate on the entire campus, even if the state didn't get around to declaring an emergency.

Personal belief won't wash (this is a losing argument, period); religious belief is limited to religions, like the Jehovah's Witnesses, that prohibit vaccination. Health contraindications, like chemotherapy, can get you a limited exemption.

Get the jab, or give up the scholarship. The courts aren't going to be kind.

up
Voting closed 22

At a college in Boston and vaccines are required accept for medical reasons. Those instructors must tell their students, be masked, and teach behind a plastic screen. All employees and students must be tested once a week. I’d be surprised if state schools aren’t doing the same.

up
Voting closed 20

The only way the students can win is unenroll. The colleges need clients/sales. No Students No School, that simple.

up
Voting closed 0

Combined, the two schools have roughly 30,000 students. I suspect the loss of the two who sued will not make much of a difference (and unlike with last year's variety of online-class lawsuits, they filed individually, not as representatives of a larger class of students). I don't know about UMass Boston, but UMass Lowell is actually competitive in certain disciplines, so I suspect they could easily find one person on their wait list to fill the empty seat that would result.

up
Voting closed 0

schools don't have other things to spend their funds on besides these two spurious lawsuits? Come on.

up
Voting closed 24

Possibly a clever ploy there to get the court to rule on what is valid within Catholic Canons (laws). If the court rules such, that places the government in a position of determining what is a valid religious practice. That violates the Separation Clause. Now, you're off to the Appeals Court.

This happened a number of years ago when pari-mutuel workers did not want to work at one of the Revere race tracks on Christmas Day. They were terminated when they refused to show up for work on the holiday for religious reasons, and sued for reinstatement and damages. During the case the track and state heard testimony from a Catholic Priest who stated that there are no Catholic Canons that prevent a Catholic from working on a "Holy Day." Based on this the court improperly ruled that the workers should have worked, but in doing so entangled itself in determining what is a valid religious practice and observation.

On appeal, the higher court found that the lower court erred for the reason stated above and also found that a person only needs to hold specific beliefs as sacred in a personal sense in order to be accommodated for religious purposes. State law provides that workers can seek a religious day off in observation of the person's beliefs, and use personal time if a specific religious provision is not stated in their employment handbook.

Let's remember the RMV allows people to have their picture taken with a pasta sieve on their heads for their formal ID picture because they are Pastafarians.

The university may need to get a good constitutional attorney involved.

up
Voting closed 13

found that a person only needs to hold specific beliefs as sacred in a personal sense in order to be accommodated for religious purposes.

Next questions: can the plaintiff establish a history of this “sacred belief”, or did it all of a sudden appear at the same time as MAGA-fueled Covid vaccine hesitancy? When was the last vaccine/booster shot this student received? Has this student ever received a flu shot?

up
Voting closed 20

Oh this is easy, don't attend UMass Boston or UMass Lowell.

up
Voting closed 25

Take care of yourself and do the right thing. You can't copy what others do and worry about what others are doing. You can only take care of yourself.

up
Voting closed 10

Never mind that the human race owes its existence to sufficient social organization to provide assistance with childbirth. Even the doomsday preppers have guns that depend on centuries of cumulative know how and industrial development to produce and maintain.

up
Voting closed 28

The word "public" has meaning (public university, public health, public transit, etc.). One does not have the right to access public things without following rules that prevent harm to others.

up
Voting closed 22

UMass won't let you live in the dorms or attend class without proof of an entire suite of vaccinations.

This is absolutely no different.

These kids are being used by idiots to advance an agenda of stupidity. It would be interesting to follow the money ... er ... "scholarships" on this.

up
Voting closed 27