Photo from Plenteous Veg

Only Three U.S. States Require High Schools to Provide Free Menstrual Products

Throughout 2018, new state legislation has been passed by California and Illinois requiring high schools to provide students with free tampons and pads within the school environment. Although both laws differ with specific logistics, they both make one thing extremely clear; menstrual products are a necessity, not a luxury.

Illinois’ Public Act 100–0163 states, “When students have access to quality [menstrual] products, they are able to continue with their daily lives with minimal interruption.” The act’s emphasis on accessibility and limited distraction promotes the importance of education and physical health of those who menstruate.

Despite other state legislation failing to follow suit, prestigious universities such as Brown University are paving the way for academic institutions nation-wide in providing students with free tampons and pads. In 2016, a student-led organization on campus influenced Brown’s board of education to provide free tampons and pads in ALL nonresidential bathrooms across campus.

Additionally, in 2016 New York City launched a program that would implement free tampons and pads in all public schools for students from sixth to twelfth grade. In April of 2018 New York City Governor, Andrew Cuomo, took to Twitter to announce, “Schools in New York State will now be required to provide free menstrual products in restrooms for girls in grades 6 through 12.”

It is steps like these when local legislation influences state legislation to create a butterfly effect nationwide. A study conducted by Dr. Marni Sommer, Associate Professor in socio-medical sciences at Columbia University, found that “low-income teenage girls felt embarrassment surround their first periods and had a desire to know more about the process of menstruation.”

With easily accessible products in bathrooms throughout any education environment will not only reduce distractions throughout the day but reduce embarrassment felt when discussing and dealing with menstruation. It is important that all menstruators are provided free products in environments where they are expected to perform and function similarly to their non-menstruating peers.

The debate over the urgency of supplying students with free menstrual products has been occurring for decades. Menstruation has been taught as a concept in health classes across the United States, but with a recent surge in more conservative health curriculums, the taboo surrounding menstruation is being promoted once again.

It is important for a progressive state legislature to be produced and passed to ensure the health of menstruators in universities and colleges nationwide. The FDA considers these products “medical devices” and they should be distributed as such. High schools and colleges do not have “bring your own band-aid policies”, so why should they treat other necessary “medical devices” as such luxuries?