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Councilmember Brooke Pinto Introduces Bill to Require Free Period Products in all Public and Private DC Schools and Post-Secondary Institutions, and to Expand Menstrual Education

Posted by
Emmanuel Brantley
on
March 24, 2021


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, March 24, 2021
Contact: Emmanuel Brantley|
ebrantley@dccouncil.us

Councilmember Brooke Pinto Introduces Bill to Require Free Period Products in all Public and Private DC Schools and Post-Secondary Institutions, and to Expand Menstrual Education

Washington, D.C. – On Wednesday, March 24, Ward 2 Councilmember Brooke Pinto introduced the“Expanding Student Access to Period Products Act of 2021.” As introduced, this legislation requires the provision of free period products in District public, public charter, and private schools and post-secondary institutions. This legislation also requires that the District of Columbia’s Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) develop and implement comprehensive menstrual health education standards. This legislation was co-introduced by all of Councilmember Pinto's female colleagues on the Council (Anita Bonds, Elissa Silverman, Christina Henderson, Brianne Nadeau, Mary Cheh, and Janeese Lewis George) and Vincent C. Gray. This legislation is a revised and expanded version of Bill 23-0887, the “Expanding Student Access to Period Products Act of 2020”, which Councilmember Pinto co-introduced last Council period with former Councilmember David Grosso.

“Young women and girls need access to free menstrual products – a health necessity each month. We have seen the associated costs and burdens of accessing these products fall disproportionately on young women of color and lower income families. Addressing period poverty is a critical component to achieving gender equality and is an important component of pandemic recovery and economic equality. The same residents who are struggling to feed their families are also struggling to access period products,” said Councilmember Pinto. “As students begin safely returning to schools, we must be committed to providing a more equitable learning environment for District students and addressing period equity is key to this mission.”

Period poverty is often discussed as a challenge for women in developing countries -- approximately 500 million women and girls lack access to menstrual hygiene -- but it also impacts millions of women, girls, and transgender men in the United States. Nearly 1 in 5 American girls have missed school because of a lack of access to period products. While there is a lack of research on the impacts of period poverty on students in Washington, DC, experts have found that period poverty is closely aligned with food insecurity, which would indicate that roughly 10.6% percent of residents experience period poverty. Data also shows that expanding students’ access to period products reduces school absences.

During a public hearing on the “Expanding Student Access to Period Products Act of 2020”, many students testified that menstrual education is lacking in DC schools. Councilmember Pinto looked into OSSE's health education standards further and found that menstrual education is extremely limited and only begins in grade 9, after most girls have already started their period. Councilmember Pinto has worked with students from DC high schools and Universities who have led this effort and she is grateful for the youth partnership and involvement on this bill. Councilmember Pinto also worked with Marcy Karin, the Director of the Legislation Clinic at the University of the District of Columbia, and other experts to include a component in the bill that requires OSSE to develop comprehensive menstrual health education standards for students beginning in grade 4 and regardless of gender.

In all, the “Expanding Student Access to Period Products Act of 2021” would:

  • Require DC public, charter, 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, they would be required to provide free period products in at least one men’s bathroom.
  • Require the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (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 women’s 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.

“The lack of accessible period products adversely impacts women, girls, and transgender men’s ability to receive an education, care for their reproductive health, and participate more broadly in society,” said Councilmember Pinto. “This bill is a long-overdue step towards correcting these injustices. One day, I hope we can overcome the stigma surrounding menstruation and period products will be treated the same as toilet paper – a product everyone agrees is a basic necessity. I am honored to have introduced this bill with support of all of the women serving on the Council.”

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