Close-Up Of Woman Hand Holding Tampons
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California's New Plan For Free Pads & Tampons In Public Schools Should Set The Standard

“Just as toilet paper and paper towels are provided in virtually every public bathroom, so should menstrual products,” state assemblywoman Cristina Garcia said of California’s new law.

by Morgan Brinlee

New legislation recently signed into law in California will soon require all public schools that serve students in grades 6 and above to provide free menstrual products in their restrooms. California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill into law on Friday that expands earlier efforts in the state to put free menstrual products in the hands of low-income students.

Under the law, all public schools in California that serve students in grades 6 to 12 will be required to keep their restrooms stocked with an adequate supply of free menstrual products beginning with the 2022-2023 school year. Specifically, pads and tampons must be made available in all women’s restrooms, all gender-neutral restrooms, and in at least one men’s restroom. Public community colleges and all California State Universities will also be required to provide free menstrual products under the new law.

“Our biology doesn’t always send an advanced warning when we’re about to start menstruating, which often means we need to stop whatever we’re doing and deal with a period,” California State Assemblymember Cristina Garcia said in a statement, noting that for students that time could come in the middle of an important test or during a busy school day. “Just as toilet paper and paper towels are provided in virtually every public bathroom, so should menstrual products.”

In 2017, Garcia introduced legislation requiring schools in low-income and disadvantaged communities to provide free pads and tampons to students. In an effort to build on that law and further increase access to menstrual products, Garcia introduced AB 367, also known as the Menstrual Equity for All Act in February.

The new law is expected to help eliminate many of the barriers some, particularly lower-income students face in accessing necessary menstrual products. Earlier this year, a study conducted on behalf of Thinx and PERIOD found nearly a quarter of menstruating students reported they struggled to afford period products like pads and tampons. Students of color, however, were found to be disproportionately impacted by economic barriers limiting access to menstrual products. Roughly half of Black and Latinx students reported not feeling able to do their best school work due to a lack of access to period products. Additionally, 23% of Latinx students reported having to choose between buying menstrual products and buying food or clothing.

“Passing AB 367 prioritizes the health and dignity of thousands of California students and recognizes access to menstrual products as a basic need,” Ariana Rodriguez, a policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Southern California, said in a statement praising the passage of the Menstrual Equity for All Act. “By removing this significant barrier for young people, we are one step closer to realizing true equal access to education for all students, regardless of gender, race, or economic status.”

In celebrating Gov. Newsom signing the Menstrual Equity for All Act into law, Garcia said she hoped the bill would alleviate students’ anxiety of having to try and find a period product when at school. “It is time we recognize and respond to the biology of half the population by prioritizing free access to menstrual products and eliminating all barriers to them,” she said.