What is the purpose of the Student Census? 

The HCDSB Student Census is an online survey that collects identity-based information about our student population. When linked to other student data sources, the identity-based information can help the HCDSB know more about our students and their experiences in school. This data will help our Board create and promote a more equitable and inclusive learning environment, where all students can achieve, believe, and belong.  

What kinds of identity-based questions are we asking? 

We are asking questions about various identity-based topics, such as racial/ethnic background, religion, Indigenous identity, etc.  

Why does the Census ask about identity-based information? 

Identity-based data allows school boards to better understand their students’ identities and experiences. This type of data will help the HCDSB do the following: 

  • Identify and address barriers to student success and inclusion,  
  • Foster a more welcoming, positive learning environment for all, and  
  • Improve student achievement and well-being.  

Without understanding how our students see themselves, we will not be able to make the necessary changes to better serve all HCDSB students, such as resource allocations, programs, teaching practices, supports, and policies. The Ontario Ministry of Education also acknowledges the importance of this data collection and requires that all school boards collect identity-based data to comply with the 2017 Anti-Racism Act and align with the Ontario Education Equity Action Plan and other Ministry initiatives.  

Who determined the survey questions? 

The survey was created by the Ministry of Education’s Equity Secretariat and is aligned with Ontario’s Anti-Racism Data Standards (ARDS). Additional questions about student belonging, safety, and experiences at school were included after consulting with various stakeholder groups.  

Who will complete the survey and how? 

Kindergarten – Grade 8: Parents/Guardians are asked to complete the online survey at home, preferably with their K-8 child, by accessing the survey link sent via email. Parents/Guardians are asked to select the answers that best represent their child.  

Grade 9-12: Secondary students will complete the online survey at school, during class time. They will receive an email to their HCDSB email account with a link to the census survey. Principals will work with staff to make sure all students, including those in alternative programs, receive an invitation to participate. Students are asked to select the answers that best represent them and their identity. If students do not participate, they will be assigned other schoolwork to do. 

Are all families/students required to participate? 

We encourage all HCDSB families or students to participate in the census collection for the benefit of our school communities. However, participation in the census survey is voluntary.  

Are all survey questions mandatory? 

All questions are optional. Respondents may skip any question that they do not wish to answer, or they may choose not to complete the survey altogether without penalty. Please note that any information provided will be used for educational purposes only. 

Do families with more than one child in elementary school need to fill out a separate survey for each child? 

Parents/guardians with more than one child in Kindergarten to Grade 8 are asked to complete one survey per child. They will receive an email with a unique survey link per child.  

How long will the survey take to fill out? 

The survey should take approximately 10-20 minutes to complete.  

Will the survey be available for students with special education or other needs? 

All necessary accommodations, supports and assistive technology will be provided as they would regularly at school to ensure that every student can participate in the survey. 

Is the survey available in languages other than English? 

The survey can be completed in the following languages: Arabic, Simplified Chinese, English, French, Portuguese, Spanish, and Tagalog.  

Are there benefits or risks to completing the survey? 

The benefit of completing the survey is that you will be contributing to board-wide data that will be used to better understand and serve our school communities. There are no expected risks to participating, although respondents may experience some discomfort when responding to particular questions. Note that respondents can select “Not sure” (if provided), skip the question, or can stop taking the survey at any time. 

Is the survey anonymous and confidential? 

The survey is not anonymous because we need to be able to link the census data to previously collected school-based data (e.g., grades, suspensions, program enrolment, attendance) in order to identify potential barriers to student success and inclusion. However, student data will remain confidential; respondents’ identifying information will be separated from their identity-based data. To protect all identities, reporting will be based on groups of students and no individual student will be identified. School staff will not have access to individual student results. 

Will information be kept private? 

Yes, the data will be stored on a secure database, accessed only by authorized HCDSB Research and Development Services staff. All information will be used, disclosed, and retained in accordance with the Municipal Freedom and Protection of Privacy Act, and is collected under the authority of the Education Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. E.2, and Bill 114, Anti-Racism Act, 2017. 

How will census data be used?  

A series of reports will help inform board and school decision-making for programs and instruction and other Ministry mandated reporting templates; a summary of the results will also be shared with our community. Data reports or analysis will never identify a student. By law, the HCDSB cannot reveal individualized information for any student/parent who completes the survey. Data will be analyzed by HCDSB Research and Development Services staff. 


If you have any questions about the Student Census, please contact Dr. Lisa Collimore, Chief Officer, Research and Development Services, research@hcdsb.org or Sita Jayaraman, Senior Manager, Human Rights and Equity, jayaramans@hcdsb.org