Portland Public Schools plans to provide free menstrual products in both the boys’ and girls’ bathrooms as districts move to comply with an Oregon state law for “menstruating students.”
“Starting next year (2022-23), products will be available in all restrooms (male, female, and all-gender) in every PPS building where education occurs,” said the April 19 memo titled “Update on PPS Implementation of Menstrual Dignity Act.”
Last year, Democratic Gov. Kate Brown signed HR 3294, which requires K-12 public schools and universities to stock bathrooms with tampons and sanitary pads at no cost to students to give them the “opportunity for safe, dignified self-care.”
“To ensure timely compliance, PPS ordered 500 dispensers,” said the PPS memo posted on the Harriet Tubman Middle School website.
“Dispensers have been installed in all elementary and middle school girls’ restrooms, and more will be installed in all remaining bathrooms, including boys’ restrooms, next year.”
Why the boys’ restroom?
As the Oregon Department of Education explained, “Not all people who menstruate are girls, and not all girls menstruate.”
The department was presumably referring in the former case to female-born students who identify as male but still have a uterus and female cycles, and in the latter case to people who identify as girls but have male reproductive organs.
It also urged schools to be “gender-inclusive” by using “menstruating students” instead of “girls,” and “menstrual products” instead of “feminine hygiene products.”
“Explain ‘someone with a uterus and ovaries may begin to menstruate’ instead of ‘girls may begin to menstruate’ during puberty education,” said the department in its “Menstrual Dignity for Students Toolkit” released in March.
In addition, the toolkit said, “Use gender-inclusive ‘students’ ‘folks’ ‘everyone’ ‘learners’ or ‘they/them’ instead of ‘boys and girls’ or ‘he or she’ when referring to students.”
Among those critiquing the new law was the conservative account Libs of TikTok, which tweeted that Ms. Brown “thinks it’s very important to have tampons available in elementary boys’ bathrooms.”
The Oregon law also requires schools to “provide education on growth, development, and puberty that includes menstrual health,” the PPS memo said.
The district, the largest in Oregon, said it phased in the program during the 2021-22 academic year by providing “free, accessible menstrual products in female and all-gender restrooms located in comprehensive high schools.”
New York passed a law in 2018 requiring schools to provide free feminine-hygiene products in grades 6-12, but Oregon is the first state to mandate “free menstrual products in every student bathroom in all schools,” the department said.
Supporters of the bill said that free products would reduce stress for those who struggle to afford products or unexpectedly start their periods during the school day.
“Research shows that one in four teens have missed class due to a lack of access to menstrual products,” the department said.
“Similarly, one in five students has struggled to afford menstrual products. This disproportionately impacts students of color, students experiencing disabilities, and students experiencing poverty.”
School districts will be reimbursed for their expenses through a $5,595,000 carveout from the state’s school fund.