Legislative Spotlight: Expanding Student Access to Period Products Act of 2021 (DC Council)
Earlier this year, Councilmembers Pinto, Cheh, Henderson, Lewis George, Nadeau, Silverman, Bonds, and Gray introduced Bill 24-158, Expanding Student Access to Period Products Act of 2021. If enacted, this legislation would mandate that all District of Columbia public and private high schools and middle schools and the University of the District of Columbia provide free period products in all women’s and gender-neutral bathrooms. It would also require that the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) develop and implement comprehensive health education standards on menstruation for all students beginning in Grade 4 regardless of their gender.
Lack of access to menstrual products in school is a problem. According to Women's Voices For The Earth, a nonprofit advocating to eliminate the toxic chemicals that harm women's health and communities, "there are now more than 140 bills in 37 states — including eight bills introduced on the federal level — to advance menstrual equity through addressing the safety, access, and affordability of period care products."In Councilmember Pinto's letter of support for this legislation, it was noted that to the
District's menstrual health education standards are minimal and only begin in grade 9." This late start is viewed by many to underprepared students for the beginning of puberty, and the health education created by this bill would correct this oversight.
The “Expanding Student Access to Period Products Act of 2021” would:
Require local education agencies and private schools to provide free period products in all women’s and gender-neutral bathrooms in middle and high schools, and in at least one women’s and gender-neutral bathroom in elementary schools. If a school does not have a gender-neutral bathroom, the school would be required to provide free period products in at least one men’s bathroom.
Require OSSE to develop a poster with medically accurate information on the safe use and disposal of period products, which schools would be required to post near the period products dispenser.
Require UDC and private post-secondary institutions to provide free period products in all-female and gender-neutral bathrooms.
Require OSSE to develop and implement comprehensive health education standards on menstruation designed for all students in DCPS and DCPCS schools, beginning in grade 4 and regardless of gender.