Tampons in Schools (and other public places!)

The United Nations has stated that the right to menstrual hygiene is a human right. No, we’re not a Third World country, but girls in the United States do miss school when they are on their period. Why? The answers come from research and anecdotal sources, but boil down a few categories:


Which schools provide free tampons?

Here are states and school districts mandated by legislation to offer free access to period products:

  • Several universities offer free feminine products:
  • Toronto public schools announced on Aug. 30, 2019, that they’ll be supplying free menstrual hygiene products to students in all elementary and secondary schools. “The board will partner with the Ontario wing of a national organization called Physical Health and Education Canada, which has a relationship with suppliers of pads and tampons. The collaboration means the initiative will come at no cost to the TDSB.”
  • New Hampshire’s governor signed a bill into law on July 17, 2019, requiring public middle and high schools to provide free menstrual products in female and gender-neutral bathrooms.
  • All Boston schools teaching grades 6-12 will offer free menstrual supplies beginning fall 2019.
  • Beginning in the 2018/19 school year, New York began requiring all schools teaching grades 6-12 make feminine products available for free in restrooms. “They’re as necessary as toilet paper,” said councilmember Julissa Ferreras-Copeland.
  • Beginning Jan. 1, 2018, a state law in Illinois requires all schools to make feminine hygiene products available for free in the bathrooms of school buildings.
  • California passed Assembly Bill 10 in 2017 to require low-income schools grades 6-12 make period products available at no charge in restrooms.
  • Wisconsin State Representative Melissa Sargent, though, recently introduced a bill that mandates free tampons in schools and state buildings.
  • Brookline, Mass., was the first municipality in the U.S. to provide free period products in buildings in town, and schools are expected to do the same.
  • And where states are not providing the products, there’s a program from one product manufacturer to provide them! Always brand began a #EndPeriodPoverty program in 2018 with a goal to distribute 18 million pads to keep girls in school.
  • Princeton University provides free products via the AuntFlow.org program.

Here are some bills currently routing to mandate free period products in schools:

  • Related to these bills, Federal House Bill H.R. 6953, introduced in September 2018, would “allow states to use Student Support and Academic Enrichment grants to supply menstrual hygiene products to students.” Neither the House nor the Senate have yet voted.
  • Massachusetts Bill S.1274 would require disposable menstrual products be made available in prisons, shelters and public schools.
  • In Missouri, we have proposed House Bill 1954, thanks to State Representative Martha Stevens. The bill qould require grades 6-12 to provide menstrual products for free, similar to CA, NY, NH and IL.

(If you know of other schools or bills not listed here, please contact us!)


Which countries provide feminine supplies for free?


What other places in the United States are providing feminine supplies for free?


How much does it cost to provide free tampons in schools?

  • Nancy Kramer, founder of Free the Tampons, estimates the cost to be $4.67 per menstruator per year. That number is widely quoted: here, here,  here and here.
  • New York City Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, who introduced a number of related bills in New York in 2016, estimates the cost to be between $5.63-$14.09 per student per year. That’s from her estimate that the costs would be $3.1 million and $7.75 million per year half of the 1.1 million students in 31 school districts in New York.
    • On the low end, that’s $3.1 million divided by 550,000 = $5.63
    • On the high end, that’s $7.75 million divided by 550,000 = $14.09


What research proves that some girls don’t attend school when they are on their period?

  • According to New York’s governor’s office, research from the World Bank “demonstrates that girls’ inability to manage their menstrual hygiene in school results in absenteeism, which in turn has severe economic costs on their lives.”
  • Unicef USA has information and recommendations here related to how good menstrual hygiene keeps girls in schools.
  • Girls in the Netherlands and United Kingdom miss school 1 to 1.3 days per year because of their periods.
  • It can take about 15 minutes for a girl to leave a classroom, find a tampon, and return to the classroom. Many classes are only 50 minutes.
  • There have been some efforts to quantify how many educational hours New Hampshire students miss because they stay home or wait in line at their school nurse’s office to obtain feminine hygiene products.(Source: AP)
    • “But to be honest, I’m not really sure those numbers matter,” Sen. Martha Hennessey (D-New Hampshire) said. “Approximately 54 percent of people in middle school and high school are female. Again, if it were toilet paper, it would be covered. I just think it makes perfect sense.”