The Ministry of Education has started allowing school principals to view the list of teachers and students who are exempt from quarantine after having been vaccinated, or recovered from Corona, Haaretz reported Tuesday morning (מנהלי בתי ספר חשופים לרשימה של מורים שלא חוסנו מפני קורונה). The information on “isolation exemptions” became available to school principals on Sunday.
Along with the number of patients and quarantined individuals in each educational institution, and additional data on the locality and the neighborhood, a special website of the Ministry of Education also presents a list that includes the names and ID numbers of teaching staff and students who are exempt from isolation and the rate of exemptions by age group.
Consequently, since the exemption from isolation is only given to those who have either been vaccinated against Corona or who have recovered from the virus, the list allows anyone who reads it to identify those who have not been vaccinated. And according to Haaretz, in some high schools, the list is in the hands of more than just the principals.
As of Tuesday morning, 5,198,229 Israelis have received the first dose of the Corona vaccine, 4,282,865 the second.
According to teachers who spoke to the newspaper, the database may be used as a tool to pressure teaching staff to receive the vaccine. School principals have an incentive to use this information to pressure teachers to get vaccinated: according to a decision of the Ministries of Education and Health, classes will be conducted without restrictions on distance and the number of students in all the localities where more than 90% of the students have been vaccinated or recovered. With fully vaccinated teachers, the schools can be back in business after Passover, for an entire trimester of normalcy.
The Prime Minister’s Office and the Ministries of Health and Transportation announced on Monday that they had approved for eleventh and twelfth graders and for boarding high schools where the percentage of vaccinated students is 90% or more to conduct trips that include sleepaway accommodation starting Tuesday.
The Association for Civil Rights says sharing the confidential data with individuals who have an incentive to misuse it constitutes a “serious invasion of privacy” and calls on the Ministry of Health to make it clear to school principals that they must not use any of this information. According to the association’s attorney, Gil Gan-Mor, the information that’s being disclosed to principals is “medical information that is protected under the constitutional right to privacy and doctor-patient confidentiality.”
In a letter to the director-general of the Ministry of Health, Prof. Hezi Levy, GaN-Mor wrote that “there is no room for a sweeping transfer of the names to all educational institutions.” He also referred to the petition filed by the association together with Physicians for Human Rights against an amendment that allows the transfer of information about those who have not been vaccinated to the director-general of the Ministry of Education.
About a week ago, the High Court of Justice issued an injunction against the implementation of the amendment until a different decision is made.
Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit approved about a month ago the transfer of information about teachers and students who have been vaccinated against Corona from the Ministry of Health to the Ministry of Education. But the approval pertained only to cutting off the Corona contagion chains and not to be used to encourage vaccination, as was requested by the Ministry of Education. The Justice Ministry said at the time that the information would be passed on to school principals only in the event of a Corona outbreak in their school, “in a way that would limit the invasion of privacy” – certainly not to publish the names online.
The Ministry of Health and Education did not respond.