Why Anonymous Surveys?

students in survey
Posted on

July 5, 2013

Hi, Everyone:

Happy 4th of July weekend! I hope you are all planning on having a safe and enjoyable  weekend!

I would like to comment this week on the importance of anonymous student surveys. I bring this up is because I read a story recently about a teacher that was disciplined for telling students that they did not have to fill out a survey if they did not want to. The surveys had the students’ names printed on them and the teacher stated that they could exercise their 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination. Printing names on surveys can also make students misrepresent their behaviors by creating fear of reprisal or consequences for certain behaviors which can really skew the data. Not to mention the fact that it can become a legal headache too.


That story, which can be found here shows that there are sensitive issues involved with not using anonymous surveys, such as negative media publicity and national media attention on the practices of a school or school system. The article states, “The surveys were not anonymous. Any student whose answers raised “red flags” was sent to the school’s social workers and counselors.” While it is commendable that they were trying to counsel potentially troubled students, I feel the school was doing a disservice to the students by insinuating that the survey was mandatory.


Personally, I do not think that the teacher was wrong by telling the students that they did not have to answer the survey if they did not want to. All of the surveys that we develop here at Pride Surveys come with instructions notifying  the students that they can choose not to complete the questionnaire without consequences. The schools are also provided notification letters to distribute to parents allowing them to “opt-out” their child if they do not want them to participate in a survey. Included in these instructions are directives for the teachers not to move around the classroom and not to answer questions; except to say, “If there is something you do not understand or you feel uncomfortable answering, skip the question.”


We make sure that none of our data can be used to identify individual students or teachers by not reporting sets of data that have less than 10 valid respondents. This insures that one cannot look at a data set and deduce who certain people are by race, gender, etc. We also make sure that your data stays secure on our system by keeping the data password protected and maintaining policies about authorized users of data. We have this security in place for the customers’ benefit, however, we encourage customers to share this data with parents and teachers and even students so that they can understand what is happening in the school where they work and learn.


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