EMPORIA, Kan. (KSNT) – A Flint Hills Techincal College nursing student who is suing the school after being mandated to receive a COVID-19 vaccine was in court Tuesday claiming her religious beliefs were being violated.
Judge W. Lee Fowler ordered the technical college to give Ellis “incompletes” for her clinical trials, instead of failing grades. Ellis could not do her clinical trials until she is vaccinated.
”I’m glad to see how it turned out. I feel like all the hard work was worth it and hopefully, we reach a compromise,“ Ellis told KSNT.
Ellis said she hopes a settlement could be reached that would allow her to graduate nursing school.
“We don’t have exemptions at the tech college,” said Kim McNeese, director of nursing at Flint Hills Technical College (FHTC).
McNeese was testifying in the lawsuit brought against Flint Hills Technical College by nursing student, Molly Ellis, who wants an exemption to the COVID-19 vaccine mandate under the Kansas Preservation of Religious Freedom Act.
According to court records, Molly Ellis filed the lawsuit under the Kansas Preservation of Religious Freedom Act on Feb. 2. The brief states that Ellis is continuing to follow her religious convictions and refuses to be injected with vaccines created from “the use of aborted babies’ fetal tissue.”
According to the University of Nebraska Medical Center, the COVID-19 vaccine does not contain aborted fetal cells.
McNeese testified FHTC gives every nursing student a handbook that is reviewed “extensively.”
Ellis’s Johnson County lawyer, Linus Baker, argued that when the nursing student signed the handbook the COVID-19 vaccine was not a requirement. Ellis began the nursing program in August of 2021 and planned to graduate in May of 2022 after completing her clinical trials. However, on Jan. 1, 2022, Flint Hills modified its Student Handbook to require COVID-19 vaccinations for nursing students doing clinical trials.
“Without compliance, we don’t have a clinical partner,” McNeese told the court.
Presbyterian Manor and Newman Regional Health have contracted with FHTC for clinical training. McNeese told the court that a religious exemption would be up to Newman Hospital or Presbyterian Manor, not FHTC.
FHTC has four clinical partners, all of which require a COVID-19 vaccination to do clinicals.
Ellis has asked if she could do simulation instead of clinicals, McNeese told the court some part of the clinical must be done with one of the clinical partners.
When asked by FHTC attorneys if accommodations could be made to find another clinical partner, McNeese testified it could “take weeks to months” to find another facility that was not governed by vaccination requirements.
Judge W. Lee Fowler, who is handling the case, said that time was of the essence with this matter. He further remarked that he does not want Ellis to have to change her religious beliefs and wants to try to find accommodations.