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MTSU student sues university over COVID-19 vaccine mandate

generic - mtsu
Posted at 12:15 PM, Aug 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-12 13:15:30-04

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (WTVF) — A Middle Tennessee State University student has sued the school and the director of her department after the nursing program required students to receive a COVID-19 vaccination.

Nursing student Avery Garfield filed her lawsuit in the Rutherford County Chancery Court in early August. Originally, the nursing department had asked all students to receive the vaccine by Aug. 20.

In the email from Dr. Jenny Sauls to students, it noted there would be no exceptions and failure to comply could result in a suspension from the school. The department said it had received notice from its clinical facilities that would require a mandate for students to perform their rotations. The suit said that Garfield didn't "consent to being a human subject in experimental medicine."

"In violation of state law, which forbade MTSU from requiring a COVID-19 vaccine, the MTSU Nursing students were thanked for their 'compliance' while MTSU flagrantly violated state law," plaintiff attorney Russell Newman wrote in the suit. "Apparently, students reacted negatively to MTSU’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate as another e-mail was sent out to all MTSU Nursing Students and Dr. Sauls doubled down on MTSU’s illegal COVID-19 vaccine mandate."

Newman wrote to the court that he and his client were requesting a permanent injunction because of the vaccine mandate. It was also requesting a cease and desist from the university on the matter.

Andrew Oppmann, MTSU's vice president of marketing and communications, said the university's practice wasn't to comment on pending litigation in the court system. In Sauls' emails to students outlined the suit, she said the policy wasn't university or department's driven, rather it was a mandate from its clinical rotation partner.

Vanderbilt University Medical Center, which is one of the school's clinical rotation partner, mandated for all employees and staff to receive the COVID-19 vaccination.

"Vanderbilt provides clinical opportunities for every single one of our nursing students," Sauls wrote in the email. "Our program cannot operate without our partnership with them, and the clinical placements they provide. Eventually, all students will need to attend clinical at Vanderbilt in one or more clinical rotations."

The lawsuit stated an email from the MTSU nursing department asked students not to email VUMC asking for an exception to the vaccine mandate from the school.

A hearing for the case hasn't been scheduled.