Participatory Action Research (PAR)

PAR is a popular education method that allows community members to imagine, design, and conduct the research. It is ongoing research done for the community by the community, in which the community identifies a problem. The community then researches the problem and presents the results of the research to the larger community. The larger community then determines and implements an action in response to the problem. Once the action is taken, the action is evaluated to determine how effective the whole process had been and what next steps need to be taken.

In 2017, we completed the School Girls Deserve Participatory Action Research Project and Policy Report.  This participatory research project (PAR) was done in collaboration with a variety of young people, predominantly young people of color, in all five boroughs of New York City. We held listening sessions with 120 participants aged 9-23. The majority of the listening session participants identified as cisgender females (78.3%) nearly seven percent identified as transgender or gender nonconforming/genderqueer and approximately fifteen percent identified as cisgender males. For the study, we only included the voices of cisgender females, transgender, and gender nonconforming/genderqueer (TGNC) youth.

Through our analysis, we identified three major findings:

  1. Girls and TGNC youth of color experience institutional violence in school.
  2. Girls and TGNC youth of color experience interpersonal violence in school from adults and their peers.
  3. Girls and TGNC youth of color have visions for safe, holistic, welcoming, and affirming schools for all students.

To learn more about the School Girls Deserve PAR Project and Policy Report, click here.

In 2008, Sisters in Strength Youth Organizers led PAR in NYC public schools to investigate the impact that sexual harassment has on students. The data from that participatory action research demonstrated the need for change in NYC schools.

  • 1,189 middle and high school students participated
  • from 90 NYC public schools in Brooklyn, the Bronx, Manhattan and Queens
  • 63% female, 37% male
  • 11-20 years old
  • 43% Black/African American, 21% Hispanic/Latino, 21% Asian/Pacific Islander, 7% white, 8% mixed

Our findings showed the following and reaffirmed our belief that sexual harassment, a form of gender based violence, cannot continue to stand in the way of student’s academic achievement:

  • Sexual harassment is a normal part of students’ in-school experience:
    • 70% of all students did not believe sexual harassment was a problem in their school.
    • However, 64% of students said that sexual harassment occurred at their school.
    • 70.5% of students said that sexual teasing, jokes, remarks, questions occurred at their school.
    • 31.2% said that pressure for sex or sexual activity occurred at their school.
    • 9.7% of students said that forced sexual activity occurred at their school.
  • Sexual harassment takes place all over school:
    • 58.7% of girls said that sexual harassment takes place in the hallway at their school.
    • 34% of boys said that it happens in the locker room, indicating same sex sexual harassment.
  • Students need more support:
    • Only 3% of all respondents had ever reported sexual harassment although 66.5% reported being sexually harassed.
    • For those who did report, it was not taken seriously.
    •  Students who had experienced sexual harassment said that it impacted their ability to focus in school due to depression, fear/insecurity and feeling violated: “I couldn’t concentrate and kept crying for no reason.” “My grades dropped and I was always depressed.” “I was scared to come to school.”
  • Educators and students alike are unaware of their rights or how to apply them:
    • When the Coalition for Gender Equity in Schools called 200 schools in districts throughout NYC the year prior to find out the name of their Title IX Coordinator, only 10 schools were readily able to share the name of their designated staff person.
    • What’s a Title IX Coordinator?
      • Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 requires that every school in the U.S. have a Title IX Coordinator, a volunteer staff member who is trained to receive reports of sexual harassment and maintain schools free of gender discrimination. The entire school community must know their name and how to reach them.