States Take Measures to Ensure Students’ Access to Menstrual Products in Schools
Alexandria, VA – Students without consistent access to menstrual products, especially those living in poverty, often experience shame, emotional distress, and missed class time. A new NASBE analysis highlights how states have increasingly opted to combat “period poverty” by expanding access to free menstrual products in schools and offers questions state leaders can ask when implementing similar policies in their own states.
Following passage of a 2018 New York law that requires public schools serving students grades 6-12 to provide free menstrual products in school restrooms, 17 additional states and the District of Columbia set similar requirements. Yet how states distribute menstrual products to students, as well as how the programs are funded, varies considerably. Some states, like Georgia, annually appropriate money for providing menstrual products in schools; others reimburse a portion of the cost or stipulate that schools provide products but do not provide them funding to do so. Additional examples in the brief include:
- In Utah, school districts must provide free menstrual products in all female and unisex bathrooms at the elementary, middle, junior high, and high school level. While initially state funded, in future years districts must incorporate funding for this requirement into their annual budget and operating costs. Tennessee and Washington require that schools provide free menstrual products to their students but do not provide funding.
- Colorado operates an application-based grant program that provides stipends to schools serving majority low-income populations. A similar program in Alabama reimburses schools that provide free menstrual products to students in grades 5 through 12.
- A 2022 Connecticut law stipulates that schools, state-funded homeless shelters, emergency shelters, and college campuses provide free menstrual products in restrooms. In response to concerns that the plan was financially burdensome, the legislation also allows for donations and/or partnerships with nonprofit or community-based entities to provide the products.
- In tandem with a city law requiring the provision of free menstrual products in District of Columbia schools, the state board incorporated menstrual education into its prior health education standards in early 2023.
Regardless of the policy specifics, states that broaden access to menstrual products help remove a source of distress and absenteeism for students who menstruate. “Access to menstrual products enables students to address their health needs and fully participate in school without shame or difficulty,” the report notes.
NASBE serves as the only membership organization for state boards of education. A nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, NASBE elevates state board members’ voices in national and state policymaking, facilitates the exchange of informed ideas, and supports members in advancing equity and excellence in public education for students of all races, genders, and circumstances. Learn more at www.nasbe.org.
This publication is supported by cooperative agreement CDC-RFA-PS18-1807, funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The contents of this publication are solely the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily represent the official views or endorsement of the CDC or the Department of Health and Human Services.