This legislative session the House passed and the Senate amended a bill that will require school districts to provide menstrual products for students at no charge.
The bill, S.155, is part of miscellaneous education bill that includes various other education proposals. The House is expected to hold a final vote on the bill this week.
As written, the bill provides that students at public and approved independent schools have access to menstrual products in school bathrooms at no cost to students. School districts in consultation with nurses’ offices will determine which products and brands will be available.
School districts and independent schools will cover the cost of supplying menstrual products. A legislative analyst estimated that the cost of installing dispensers in schools throughout the state could be between $120,000-$180,000. The annual cost of purchasing menstrual products was estimated to be $50,000-$60,000 per year. If passed by the House this week the bill will go into effect for the 2022-2023 school year.
The Scott administration has indicted that Governor Phil Scott supports this legislation.
This bill and a previous bill that gets rid of the state sales tax on menstrual products are good news and sane, compassionate legislation. During hearings on this bill, lawmakers heard testimony about parents who considered keeping their child home from school during their period because they couldn’t afford to purchase sanitary supplies.
Beyond the cost, hormones in adolescents and teenagers can be fickle and periods often arrive when they are not expected, catching students by surprise and without the necessities they need.
During the legislative process, there was some sotto voce grumbling about the cost of unfunded state mandates. But this is about more than cost.
This, and eliminating the sales tax on menstrual products, is about making sure all students who need these products have access to them as part of a basic health care need. As a society, we can afford to cover the costs and we should do this. Teenagers (and their parents) have enough on their plates without having to worry about this.
This is progress.