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Our view: A shameful discrepancy in school bathrooms

Why is it that women’s hygiene products are not offered for free in school bathrooms?

Herald pull quote, 01/20/2023
Herald graphic
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A public bathroom without toilet paper? Or hand soap? Or paper towels, to wipe hands after washing? We’ve all encountered it, and we all get frustrated when those essential — and free — products aren’t provided.

So then why is it that women’s hygiene products are not offered for free in school bathrooms?

This is a question that’s being asked at the Minnesota Capitol during the current legislative session.

According to a recent report by Minnesota Public Radio — and published in Forum Communications Co. newspapers and websites — some Minnesota lawmakers want to require districts to provide menstrual products for free to students. It’s not a new issue; Democrats in the state House of Representatives last year introduced a similar bill, according to MPR.

The phrase used to describe the issue is “period poverty,” because some kids cannot afford these products. Some feel that making the products more readily available will help keep students from missing class.

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We believe that’s true.

And we also believe this is a classic case of discrimination — boys have the products they need, but girls do not. It’s a discrepancy so easily remedied that we just can’t believe it still isn’t happening.

Some states have figured it out. A report in USA Today late last year noted that “at least 20 states and jurisdictions have some requirements for schools to provide period products to students, or allow schools to use funds to provide those products.”

Instead of acting upon it here and making it law, we’re letting states on the outer edges of the nation — California, Hawaii, Maine and New York, for instance — lead the way.

The USA Today report also noted that federal proposals have been introduced in the past, but without luck. Mostly, Democrats are pushing the idea.

In Minnesota, the proposal would require schools to provide menstrual products for students in grades 4-12. The total cost is $2 million, but before gasping at the sum, do the math: It’s only $2 per student per year, MPR reported. And it’s probably cheaper yet, since some students still would probably use products brought from home.

Isn’t this a cheap and easy way to cut down on missed class time?

Or better yet, throw out arguments about girls potentially missing class or skipping school entirely during menstruation.

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How about we instead just focus on two issues: 1) That some girls cannot afford these products; and 2) that it’s wrong that some products are provided free of charge in school bathrooms but these essential products are not.

It’s shameful. And the states that do not provide these items should be ashamed that it’s taken this long to even have these discussions.

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