Original Article Written By: Kayla Jimenez, USA TODAY
Utah high school senior Megan Reid was determined to get dispensers with period products in her school bathrooms last school year.
It came at a big cost: Reid convinced legislators to make it happen in part by telling them about the times she bled through her pants at school and missed class looking for supplies. And she told them about the days she missed class completely because of the shame she felt.
She called the experience “embarrassing,” but worthwhile in the end. Utah’s legislature unanimously passed H.B. 162, sponsored by Republican Rep. Karianne Lisonbee, earlier this year following a push from advocates, including Reid. Now all of her classmates, and future students at her high school in West Valley City, Utah, have access to high-quality pads and tampons at no cost in female and unisex school bathrooms.
“We won’t have to miss classes or feel ashamed,” said Reid, 17.
Free and accessible period products at school are one route to ensuring student’s academic achievement and attendance in schools, advocates say. While many people agree that all teens can’t afford menstrual products, there isn’t consensus about the solution. The disagreement shows up in patchy state and local laws, in absence of requirements to provide period products in federal law or guidance and in resistance from some school leaders and administrators.
Utah is now one of a few states that requires schools to have period products readily available in female and unisex school bathrooms. But many teens are scrambling to get by in states where there isn’t similar legislation. And with inflation hiking the price of tampons and pads, advocates are calling attention to the inequity among states and urging legislators to do more to help students who have periods – many of whom are now trying to recover from pandemic-related learning loss.
Other states are following suit: At least six bills addressing period products in schools passed this year, and “there are a number in the works” for the next legislative session, including in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, said Molly Todd Rudy, a spokesperson for the company Aunt Flow, which helps students advocate against period poverty in their schools.