Proposal would provide free tampons, pads to students

DOVER — Democratic legislators on Thursday announced they plan to file a bill that would require schools to provide free feminine hygiene products to students.

The measure would mandate all public schools that serve students in grades six through 12, including charter schools, offer tampons and pads in women’s restrooms at no cost.

“Period products are not a luxury. They are essential items for our daily lives. It’s a fact of life,” House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst, a Bear Democrat who is the main sponsor, said in a statement.

“But the cost can be a barrier. Women of all ages struggle at some point in their lives to afford period products. The problem is magnified for low-income families, which puts stress on children as they mature.

“We have the opportunity and responsibility to take a stand for period equity by making tampons and pads available to all students who need them. Improving access to safe, sanitary products will help students go about their daily lives with dignity, and without shame or worry. I’m proud to take this step forward for Delaware children.”

Legislators approved a measure directing the state to offer free tampons and sanitary napkins in correctional facilities in 2018.

According to a 2017 survey by Always, 20 percent of girls in the United States have either left class early or missed school completely because they did not have access to period products.

A study of low-income women published in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology in February indicated a similar ratio of participants were unable to afford to buy feminine hygiene products monthly. Almost half of the women in the study could not afford to buy both food and menstrual hygiene products during the past year.

“When families are already struggling to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads, putting aside money for period products can become an afterthought,” Sen. Elizabeth “Tizzy” Lockman, a Wilmington Democrat, said in a statement.

“We have to change the narrative so cost doesn’t become a barrier to this needed personal care. I don’t expect every student will need free menstrual hygiene products. But by providing safe, reliable access to those items, we are assuring that those students who do have a need are given a basic level of dignity while attending Delaware schools.”

States such as New York, New Hampshire, California and Illinois have approved similar legislation.

Rep. Longhurst said she hopes to file the legislation before the General Assembly returns to session in January.

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