Data breach exposes requests for vaccine exemptions from students in Chico state
CHICO – The personal information of students at a California college who requested a religious exemption from the COVID-19 vaccine has been released online after an apparent data breach.
The records of about 130 students at California State University, Chico, were filed on an anonymous message board, the Sacramento Bee reported on Monday.
A commenter on the site linked a spreadsheet with detailed explanations of students who had requested to be exempt from receiving the vaccine in order to attend college. Student names and phone numbers have been included in many entries.
The original post provided advice on how to file a religious exemption to a COVID-19 vaccine warrant, according to the Bee. “Include purely religious reasons only,” the anonymous tip reads. “Don’t mention anything else.”
The CSU system requires its 56,000 faculty and staff and nearly 500,000 students on campus to be vaccinated against the coronavirus. The policy allows for medical and religious exemptions.
The spreadsheet shows that about half of the requests for the leaked document were approved. Many of the rejected applications were resubmitted for another chance for approval.
“We are aware of the documents put online and disseminated in the media. We are investigating this incident, while also taking a number of proactive steps to protect student confidential information, ”Andrew Staples, CSU Chico’s director of public relations, said in a statement.
Most of the exemption requests have come from students citing their Christian beliefs – some of them citing Bible scriptures. Another student who was approved called the vaccine “unclean” and analogous to non-kosher food for Orthodox Jews.
Students who requested a religious exemption included several NCAA athletes, incoming students and college dorm residents, the newspaper said. Students who said they believed in healing through prayer were approved for the exemption, and many called their bodies a temple.
“My religious beliefs follow natural healing through the divine power of God and faith healing,” reads one NCAA athlete’s approved exemption request. “My beliefs challenge the need for modern medicine, including vaccinations.”