Availability of period products in high schools

On Oct. 11, 2021, Governor Gavin Newsom issued a bill that required schools from grades six through 12 to supply free menstrual products for students, which is expected to go into effect in the 2022-23 school year. The goal of the law is to provide aid to low-income families who struggle to afford menstrual products. Women spend over $2,000 on tampons throughout their lifetime. Sometimes, those who come from low-income households have to choose between food and period products.

“Often periods arrive at inconvenient times,” Assembly member Cristina Garcia said in a statement. “Having convenient and free access to these products means our period won’t prevent us from being productive members of society, and would alleviate the anxiety of trying to find a product when out in public.”

Individuals who experience menstrual cycles need essentials like pads and tampons. This becomes a necessity at school when bathroom access is limited, according to Duquesne University School of Nursing. Currently at FHS, period products are not provided.

FHS sophomores Dhriti Surendernath Mandalam and Lauren Iswandhi talked about their experiences at school when on their periods.

“My experience at school with my period is really uncomfortable,” Mandalam said. “I would check myself every now and then very often depending on the day, and I just don’t want to leave a mark behind or create a mess and make it feel uncomfortable for others. It just makes me feel like, ‘Oh, I wish I were just at home.’”

Iswandhi, on the other hand, has had a more pleasant experience overall.

“It’s been okay, I try to go to the bathroom during brunch and lunch to change,” Iswandhi said. “I felt uncomfortable when I was younger because no one talked about [periods]. I felt like there was a stigma around it and people acted like it was something to be ashamed of. But now I’m more relaxed about it and I feel comfortable talking about it with my friends.”

The students strongly believe in free period products for all individuals and that schools, in general, should be providing these essentials for all.

“[Menstrual products] should be available and free for the people who need it at school because sometimes you might not always be prepared and that’s okay,” Mandalam said. “It might happen when you least expect it. But there should always be a support system even at school- like sanitary products and period products should be available for everyone and they shouldn’t have to feel ashamed or embarrassed to ask to borrow one because it’s a thing we have to deal with.”

Likewise, Iswandhi added to the idea that products should be available to all individuals who need them.

“Periods can be irregular, so you might get it without expecting it or knowing it’s going to happen,” Iswandhi said. “So, you need to have those products available. Period products should also be placed in all bathrooms — not just the women’s bathrooms — and it is important to have gender neutral bathrooms available because not everyone can just avoid going to the bathroom especially if they have periods. Then people do not have to worry about gender dysmorphia when going to the bathroom just to have simple products that they need.”

Regarding the new law, both students agree that it is a highly beneficial step in making individuals feel more comfortable at school.

“I think that it’s great and I’m really glad they have it because it helps reduce the stigma around periods and allows there to be supplies available for people who need it,” Iswandhi said. “And I don’t think there could be any downsides of this.”

“I think that’s like a really good thing that happened,” Mandalam said. “I’m so glad that happened. Because I don’t think we need to pay for something that we need. You don’t have to pay for toilet paper — you get free toilet paper. Why can’t we get free sanitary products at school too?”