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 and universities provide free tampons?

  • Missouri colleges and universities (research provided by Carolyn Johnson):
    • Northwest Missouri State University — Beginning in the 2021 fall semester, all academic buildings will have at least one restroom with free tampons and pads. (This is a We Gotchya initiative — read about it here.)
    • Missouri University of Science & Technology — Products provided by Student Council and Student Diversity Initiatives.
    • Truman State University — The Women’s Resource Center provides free tampons in women’s and gender-neutral restrooms.
    • Southeast Missouri State University — Provides some free product in some restrooms.
    • Washington University in St. Louis began offering tampons and pads “for emergency and occasional use” in 30 buildings September 2021. The university plans to expand to other buildings.
  • These U.S. universities offer free feminine products:

Which states have passed or are close to passing legislation requiring free feminine products?

    • California passed Assembly Bill 10 in 2017 to require low-income schools grades 6-12 make period products available at no charge in restrooms.
    • Delaware House Bill 20 passed March 15, 2021, requiring schools provide feminine products to to students who can have a menstrual cycle.
    • Beginning Aug. 5, 2021, the state of Illinois requires all colleges, universities and homeless shelters to provide products for free. this expands the state’s Jan. 1, 2018 law, that required all schools to make feminine hygiene products available for free in the bathrooms of school buildings.
    • 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.
    • Oregon has several bills related to access to menstrual products. House Bill 3294, The Menstrual Dignity act, was signed by the Senate and sent to the governor on June 28, 2021. The act requires public schools to provide to students pads and tampons at no charge.
    • Washington State’s governor signed House Bill 1273, requiring all public and private schools and colleges to provide free menstrual products to students.
    • Wisconsin State Representative Melissa Sargent, though, recently introduced a bill that mandates free tampons in schools and state buildings.
    • 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.

Which U.S. cities require free feminine products?

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 would 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?

  • We Gotchya member, Deb Toomey, oversaw a student research project focused on Northwest Missouri State University. See the results here.  This research showed that 41% of Northwest students have missed class at least once due to period-related issues.
  • 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.”