Stephen Gallagher, a biomedical engineering student at Western University in London, Ontario, is in the county jail.
The 20-year-old was handcuffed, hauled off in shackles and transported to the facility, under the threat of being charged with an illegal act, after he refused to comply with a threat to expel him if he did not rescind his request to be vaccinated against measles, mumps and rubella.
The rest of the university–approximately 10,000 students–will be required to be vaccinated in September, since a new vaccination requirement went into effect.
“Most of the students want it. But you can’t please everybody and I’m not willing to make some people miserable just to fit in,” Gallagher said in an interview with Fox News’ Todd Starnes.
Gallagher was originally under the threat of expulsion because he provided only partial answers to questions on his permit about vaccinations and whether he’d had a measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) booster. A student-body policy allows the university’s Health Committee to require vaccinations for most students. In the university’s case, it also gives the committee the authority to decide whether an appointment is made for a student to receive vaccinations. But the written question, which asks about every vaccination listed on a student’s permit, would need to be fully answered if the student wants to obtain a medical exemption.
Gallagher, who is biracial, is on a strict Western University stay-at-home, while caring-for-a-disabled parent’s dog policy. Although his parental status does not preclude him from attending school, he is thus providing his true identity to protect himself against the discrimination he fears, he said. He worries about what will happen to his mother if he loses the permit, which allows him to ride a campus bus, or attends an extracurricular event that requires him to be accompanied by a parent.
Without an exemption, Gallagher says, his attendance at an on-campus event such as a film screening or a science or math fair would require him to eat and drink on campus, which would be a violation of the stay-at-home policy, and potentially a violation of his parents’ rights, he told Starnes.
To avoid the threat of being expelled, Gallagher and his family–who lives in a condominium with a screening room–significantly covered the cost of the vaccines and paid a second, much larger bill to cover the medications required once the shots were administered.
“It’s the right thing to do,” Gallagher said. “I hope that in the future, more universities will follow the example of Western University, which is right.”
University spokeswoman Jennifer Giles said the university stands by its policy that makes the university the first line of defense to protect students and health and safety.
“The public health principle that will make the university the safest place to live is vaccination for measles, mumps and rubella,” Giles said. “That is what the university is about–helping protect the health and safety of its members and their families.”
Gallagher said he worries what could happen if a school fails to follow the standard of enforcement for a medical exemption, and the infected student or even family contacts, spreads the disease in the community.
“There’s no way to make that right if a university doesn’t enforce it,” he said.
To help organize efforts to help publicize the upcoming vaccinations, Gallagher asked friends to share on social media a social media app he has developed for “Facebook friends who hate vaccines and are committed to an anti-vaccination platform.”