Boston students who menstruate will have easier access to pads and tampons come September.
This upcoming school year, Boston will launch a pilot program to provide free period products for students in grades six through 12 in 77 public schools, Mayor Martin J. Walsh announced Monday. The $100,000 investment for the pilot program is part of the mayor’s 2020 fiscal year budget, according to Patch.
Advocates say the move is an important first measure toward achieving menstrual equity.
During the program’s pilot period, tampons and pads will be available for free at the school nurse’s office. The city didn’t specify how long the pilot period will be but eventually, teachers will also be allowed to give out the products.
"This pilot program is about equity in our schools, and among our young people," Mayor Walsh said in a statement released on the city’s website.
Mayor Walsh cited a 2017 study conducted by the period product brand Always that found nearly 1 in 5 girls in the US have left school early or missed school altogether because they didn't have access to menstrual products.
The effort aims to ensure students with periods don’t miss class when they are menstruating and can focus on learning, Laura Perille, interim Boston Public School superintendent, added.
Much of the stigma and shame surrounding periods lies in the fact that it’s taboo to even acknowledge the natural process happens, according to Sasha Goodfriend, president of Mass NOW, the Massachusetts chapter of the National Organization for Women.
“We have the power to break this cycle and we need more non-menstruators like Mayor Walsh talking about periods,” Goodfriend told Global Citizen.
Mass NOW has spoken to school nurses across the state about how to improve access to period products. Students and nurses agree that it’s best practice to make tampons and pads available for free in bathroom dispensers, Goodfriend said.
Grateful for the advocacy of @MassNOW@MattOMalley and glad to see Boston on the right path. Looking forward to discussing more @BOSCityCouncil, love to look at broader distribution in bathrooms of public bldgs to ensure students & residents have privacy and autonomy. https://t.co/IVUtP8Wj9V— Lydia Edwards (@LydiaMEdwards) June 18, 2019
One caveat to Boston’s new plan is that students will still have to take time out of class to go to the nurse’s office to pick up pads or tampons. Not having these products available in bathrooms also contributes to the perception that periods are a medical problem that needs to be fixed.
Mayor Walsh’s period product announcement follows another recent effort to end period poverty in Massachusetts. In response to community and student activism, Brookline, a town in the greater Boston area became the first in the US to offer free period products in public spaces in May.
Mass NOW is currently working on the “I Am bill,” which stands for "increased access to menstrual products." If it passes, the bill would be the first statewide legislation to guarantee period products are free in public schools, prisons, and shelters. Massachusetts would also join other states, including New York, Georgia, and New Hampshire, that provide free tampons and pads in schools already.