COVID-19 Student Survey

The COVID-19 Student Survey (CSS) was designed as an anonymous needs assessment for schools to use as they move to in-person or hybrid teaching (and/or plan for the fall). The state agencies working on this survey (and coming to a consensus on the items included) were the Department of Health (DOH), Health Care Authority (HCA), the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), and a team at the University of Washington (UW).

The results from this anonymous survey can help school leaders understand the status of their students at this time, and the CSS team selected questions/items that were most associated with student wellbeing from other longstanding, well-validated studies, as well as items generated by educators and novel items pertaining to COVID-19.

Now that data collection is complete, we will be working with schools to provide frequency reports by grade within their schools. We will also be working on fact sheets that will summarize "lessons learned" as well as any major findings that will help support students. We will explore if there are any groups of students who have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 (and essentially a year away from classmates, teachers, and other supports and services). Those analyses will be based on, among other things, demographic characteristics such as race/ethnicity, grade in school, gender identity, and sexual orientation – these variables were included so that these types of comparisons could be made. We know that these are potentially sensitive topics, but it is important to identify if any groups of students may need additional help or services because of the numerous impacts of COVID-19 (and changes in their access to peers, teachers, and supports).

Please note several safeguards were implemented to make all questions, especially sensitive questions, as least invasive as possible. These include:

  • The survey was anonymous (so no one was able to be identified)
  • Students were assured their participation was completely voluntary and there were no right or wrong answers
  • Students were told they could skip any item they wanted to leave blank
  • Among the options for the gender identity and sexual orientation items were "I do not know what this question is asking" and "I prefer not to answer"
  • Students were asked if they were in a place where they could respond honestly to questions – if so, the survey continued; if not, they were asked to find such a place (and, if they could not, were thanked for their time and excluded from answering questions)

Questions about substance use were included for a number of reasons. Use of alcohol and cannabis/marijuana by youth and adolescents is associated with a number of factors, including perceived harm, use by family, and perceived parental approval/disapproval of use by youth themselves. In previous state-wide surveys, schools have used the responses to these items to consider their substance use prevention needs, as well as the degree to which these trends need to be described in any school's messaging to parents. The last year has seen reports of increased substance use for both adults and younger people, including different trends in delivery, access, purchases, and sales of substances. That said, the last year has also had the potential for more parental monitoring. Thus, these substance use items were included to look at rates of substance use by students over the past year, and the degree to which use was associated with variables that have been strong predictors in past survey efforts. This will be helpful for schools as they consider their substance use prevention needs. Again, the survey is anonymous, and no personally identifiable information is collected, so no information about identifiable families is collected either.

Students were asked 3 questions that had to do with thoughts about suicide. Because the survey is anonymous, no students could be identified based on their answers. However, when students provided a "yes" answer to any item referencing suicide, they immediate received the following six resources on their screen:

Washington Teen Link
1-866-TEENLINK (833-6546)

Crisis Text Line
Text HOME to 741741

You Are Not Alone Network (for Native youth):

The Trevor Project (for LGBT youth): to text or chat
1-866-488-7386 to talk

National Teen Line:
1-800-852-8336 or text TEEN to 839363

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
1-800-273-8255 (TRS: 1-800-799-4889)

At the end of the survey, all students were offered a number of resources for support if needed. These have been added to the CSS website as well.

If you are a private school in Washington state (or a school in a different state) hoping to use this needs assessment with your own students, we hope that this is a valuable reference for you and your school. Please consider that if you want to administer this or any survey yourself you will need to think about how to best protect student privacy and anonymity. Keeping responses anonymous is important for students to feel safe answering honestly. With questions about how to protect student privacy, please consult with your own school district administrators, superintendent, and/or your state's Institutional Review Board.

Click here for survey: The COVID-19 Student Survey questions

(administered from March 8 through March 26, 2021)

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