The Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) nursing student who said police officers forced her from class because she refused the COVID-19 vaccine said she will oppose a school policy that defies her beliefs and her legal rights.
That student, Avery Garfield, spoke to The Tennessee Star on Friday.
“I feel like I have woken up having to make a choice. Do I choose to fight for my rights and keep a hold of my beliefs or do I give in for a career? Mentally, this has taken a lot of heart and a lot of soul, and it has taken a lot out of me,” Garfield said.
“All of that passion that I had with nursing has not necessarily been dampened all the way, but it’s given it a little bit of a bad taste in my mouth.”
In a column last month, the Williamson County-based Tennessee Stands cited MTSU policy, which said nursing students must take the COVID-19 vaccine, with no exceptions.
Garfield’s attorney, Russell Newman, has taken legal action on Garfield’s behalf. He said Friday that MTSU officials cannot mandate the COVID-19 vaccine.
“You cannot mandate an unapproved vaccine,” said Newman, who is based out of Brentwood.
“That is the position that we are taking. You cannot mandate it. Therefore an exemption is not needed or required.”
Newman said Thursday that two police officers were waiting for Garfield as she arrived at her nursing class Thursday morning. He said those officers escorted her out of the building. Newman also said MTSU officials will not allow her to attend her clinical, which is part of her nursing curriculum.
MTSU spokesman Jimmy Hart told The Star on Friday that Newman and Garfield did not tell the story accurately.
“After the conversation with the faculty member on the day in question, the student left the meeting acknowledging that she understood she could not attend class and left the building without incident,” Hart said via email.
“University police officers were on site at the request of faculty but did not at any time detain or touch the student. The officers left the building at the same time as the student, but it was not to escort or remove her from the building. She left freely and of her own accord.”
Garfield said Tuesday it’s important that she assert herself.
“If you are scared about standing up for yourself and you are looking to see if anyone else is doing it and you think ‘Oh my God, are they going to think that I am crazy. Am I throwing everything away?’ If you want to use this as your sign then go for it,” Garfield said.
“You can fight back against this. If we come together and we all push against these unlawful mandates and we stand up for the choices of what happens to our own bodies we can win this if we fight together. We the people.”
Newman said Tennessee Stands members support Garfield and are paying for Newman’s time and expenses.
Newman said he was already representing Garfield in a lawsuit against MTSU regarding the vaccine mandate. On Thursday he filed his seventh emergency motion in the case, which is a second application for a temporary restraining order in the Middle District of Tennessee in the federal court.
“The court denied the first application for a temporary restraining order stating that we could not prove irreparable harm so we corrected that, and we filed a second TRO which is an emergency motion with the federal court this afternoon,” Newman said Thursday.
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