Does the language in A.R.S. §15-117 and the PPRA answer the question, What’s a Survey Monkey Gonna Do?

What’s a Survey Monkey gonna do? With the recent changes to A.R.S. §15-117, the Arizona legislature has incorporated much of the survey language included in the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA), 20 U.S.C. §1232h, and then added a few additional categories.  The Arizona statute requires that each school district and charter school obtain written, informed consent from the parent or guardian before administering any survey that is retained by the school for more than one year and that solicits personal information about the student regarding one of fourteen areas:  critical appraisals about another person with whom the student has a close relationship[1]; gun or ammunition ownership; illegal/antisocial/or self-incriminating behavior; income or other financial information; legally recognized privileged relationships, i.e., priest, attorney, doctor; medical history/information; mental health history/information; political affiliations/opinions/beliefs; biometric information about the student; quality of interpersonal relationships in the home; religious practices/affiliations/beliefs; self-sufficiency during an emergency/disaster/essential services interruption plans; sexual behavior/attitudes; and voting history.

The PPRA, on the other hand, requires the school to secure consent or to allow the child to opt out of student surveys, analysis, or evaluations that concern one of eight protected areas: Political affiliations/beliefs of the student or the student’s parents; mental/psychological problems of the student or the student’s parents; sex behaviors/attitudes; illegal/antisocial/self-incriminating or demeaning behavior; critical appraisals of others with whom the student has a close family relationship; legally recognized privileged relationships, i.e., minister, attorney, doctor; religious practices/affiliations/beliefs of the student or the student’s parents; and income other than as required by law to determine program eligibility.

Both charter and public schools[2] are required to obtain written, informed, consent from the student’s parent before the student can participate in a survey that falls into one of those fourteen protected categories.  This informed consent must be secured on an annual basis.  If the survey concerns one of the fourteen categories, consent is required regardless of the stated reasons for the survey; regardless of what percentage of the questions on the survey fall into one of the protected areas, and regardless of whether the survey is given in a digital or written format.

The six exceptions to this requirement include when the  survey questions are part of a mental health screening or  screening  for determining eligibility in programming for gifted students or students with disabilities.  Another exception is if the survey is part of a class assignment, discussion or instruction that is related to the subject matter of that class.  Surveys conducted as part of nationally recognized college entrance exams that students choose to take may also include questions about protected areas, even when the exam is held on school property. Surveys conducted by the Arizona criminal justice commission are exempted as are surveys conducted on a student because of a belief that the student is or has been the victim of abuse under A.R.S. §13-3620.  Finally, if the survey does not require the student’s name or other identifiable information, then the survey is also exempted from the requirement for parental permission.

As a recap, public and charter schools (but not private schools) must secure annual, written, informed consent from parents or adult students if:

  • The survey is kept by the District for more than one year.
  • The survey collects the student’s name or other identifiable information.
  • One or more questions in the survey impact one or more of the protected areas.
  • The survey does not fall under one of the exceptions.

While I believe that the written consent can still be a “failure to return this form will be interpreted as your permission to allow your child to participate in the survey,” a simple “to participate in surveys” would not, in my opinion be “informed” consent.  A better option would be to include the following language on your annual directory information/PPRA permission form:

Your student may be asked to participate in a survey where personally identifiable information will be collected and kept for more than a year.  These surveys cannot be disclosed to third parties without “de-identifying” the responses. Please indicate in which of the following  types of surveys you do not give permission for your student to participate:

[] critical appraisals about another person with whom the student has a close relationship

[] gun or ammunition ownership

[] illegal/antisocial/or self-incriminating behavior

[] income or other financial information

[] legally recognized privileged relationships, i.e., priest, attorney, doctor

[] medical history/information

[] mental health history/information

[] political affiliations/opinions/beliefs

[] biometric information about the student

[] quality of interpersonal relationships in the home

[] religious practices/affiliations/beliefs

[] self-sufficiency during an emergency/disaster/or essential services interruption plans

[] sexual behavior/attitudes

[] voting history

[] none of the above

As always, legal opinions may differ, so be sure to consult your attorney.

This blog should be used for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice. If you need legal advice regarding What’s a Survey Monkey Gonna Do?, or other Education Law matters, please feel free to contact Candyce B. Pardee at  800.863.6718, log on to,  or contact an attorney in your area. Udall Shumway PLC is located in Mesa, Arizona with a branch office in Yuma, Arizona, and is a full service law firm. We assist Individuals, families, businesses, schools and municipalities in Mesa and the Phoenix/East Valley.


[1] “Close relationship” is not defined; however, as a later category discusses the quality of interrelationships within the home, this might refer to some other form of close relationship.

[2] Private schools are exempted from compliance with this law.