Valuing Voices Student Survey - Background

What was the purpose of the survey?

The purpose of the student survey was:

  1. to gather demographic information about the unique and diverse characteristics of the OCDSB’s student population; 
  2. to identify and respond to barriers to student learning and well-being; and
  3. to enhance the District’s capacity to serve its increasingly diverse student population and client communities.  

This will help the District identify where systemic barriers and bias exist within our system with a view to eliminating these barriers through changes to policy, procedure, programs and practices that affect students, staff, and the communities we serve.

Why was the survey necessary?

We have been working on issues of equity for several years and despite considerable effort, we continue to hear stories from students and families about their experience with bias and barriers in the education system. In 2019, we held focus groups with parents and students to learn more about their experience. These stories informed a report titled “Valuing Voices”. We appreciated the open and honest feedback we received in our focus groups. This report is not simply an account of the challenges our students and families have experienced, it’s a call to action. We need to do more to address the barriers our students face. The collection of identity-based data is an important step forward in this direction.

Who was asked to complete the survey?

  • Parents of children in Kindergarten through grade 6 will complete the survey on behalf of their child(ren). 
  • Students in grades 7-12 will complete the survey during class time at school.

Was participation in the survey voluntary? 

Yes. The Student Survey was voluntary. Students and parents were able to choose whether to participate and were able to refrain from responding to specific questions.

  • For students in K-grade 6, parents provided consent by completing the survey.  If the parent did not consent, they simply did not complete the survey.
  • For students in grades 7-12, parents were able to complete an opt-out form indicating that they did not consent to their child’s participation.  The form was included with the information letter sent to parents.

Why did the school district decide to use an opt out consent process?

The Ontario Anti-Racism Act provides the legislative framework for school districts to collect this data for the purpose of identifying and eliminating systemic barriers and bias that negatively impact students, staff and communities that are served. The district recognizes that decisions about consent in relation to data collection involving students are made on a case-by-case basis by parents. Recognizing that the survey is voluntary, the opt-out consent model seemed to be the best method for managing individual decisions about participation.

Was the survey anonymous?

The survey data is confidential but not anonymous.  Student names did not appear on the survey, and will not be included in the data.  Each survey included a unique survey ID which allows the creation of a data key which is only accessible to research staff at the District to link survey data to other data sets (e.g.,achievement outcomes, participation rates in different programs/courses, suspension rates, etc.). This is necessary in order to identify trends and to develop programs, policies, and practices aimed at improving outcomes and services. The data key will not be shared with any third parties.

How will confidentiality be maintained?

Data from the survey will be stored in a database that does not contain information which could identify individual students. This unique identifier will be used to link survey data to other data (e.g., achievement) in order to identity groups of students who are being underserved so that we can implement strategies, programs, and services to better meet their unique needs. The database will only be accessible to a small team of research staff at the District office for the purpose of analysis and reporting. Reporting will be based on groups of students, and not at the individual student level in order to protect students’ privacy.

What types of questions were asked on the survey?

The survey included questions about: language, Indigenous identity, race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, religious/spiritual affiliation and/or creed, disabilities, and socioeconomic status. Perceptual questions relating to school experiences and opportunities, sense of belonging, and well-being are also included.

PDFs of the complete surveys can be found here:

2019 Student Survey - JK to Grade 6

2019 Student Survey - Grades 7-12

What gives the school board the right to collect this information?

The Ontario Anti-Racism Act (2017) and its accompanying Data Standards for the Identification and Monitoring of System Racism provide a framework for school Districts to collect identity-based data for the purpose of identifying and eliminating system barriers and bias. This work is also governed by the Education Act and the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.


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