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The one-time cost to each school would be about $30,000 to install dispensers and $77,000 a year to keep them filled.
Public and charter schools in Delaware would be required to place menstruation products in bathrooms under a proposal passed unanimously this month by both the state House and Senate.
The legislation, awaiting a signature from Gov. John Carney, would require schools with students in grades 6 through 12 to place free pads and tampons in half of bathrooms. Schools would also be required to post in common areas and online the locations of the bathrooms containing the products.
At least 125 bathrooms would need updating, according to the bill’s fiscal note. Costs, incurred by the school districts, would include a one-time charge of around $30,000 to install dispensers, and an annual cost of just over $77,000 to keep them filled. School nurses would have input on the types of products the bathrooms would provide.
Proponents said the measure would guarantee access to menstruation products for teens. One in five teenagers has struggled to afford period products or haven’t been able to purchase them, according to a 2020 white paper on inequitable access to menstruation products, otherwise known as period poverty. Because of that, 84% of respondents said they had missed school during their period or knew someone who had.
“There are many, many students in Delaware and across our country who are missing school because they do not have access to these products, which, for students who menstruate, are as essential as toilet paper,” Sen. Kyle Evans Gay, a Democrat and one of the bill’s co-sponsors, said Thursday during a legislative session. The legislation, she continued, “ensures that there’s no barrier to these supplies.”
Delaware is one of a growing number of states to attempt to make menstruation products more accessible to students. California, Illinois, New York, New Hampshire, Georgia and Virginia also provide free pads and tampons in at least some schools.
Some students in Delaware may have access to free products now, Evans Gay said, as some districts allocate part of their school nurse budgets toward purchasing pads and tampons. The legislation, if passed, codifies that cost across all districts, ensuring “there is a separate budget item” to purchase and replenish supplies, she said.
Lawmakers had proposed the legislation last year, Evans Gay said, but the bill stalled after the onset of the pandemic slowed proceedings across the General Assembly. Passing it now would ensure that students returning to school in the fall have one less thing to worry about, said Sen. Ernie Lopez, a Republican from Lewes.
“As our kids start going back to school after all of the stresses over the course of the last year, I think one of the last things they need to be worrying about is something like this,” he said. “To be able to provide this and ensure the dollars are there on behalf of our kids—especially our girls—I think that’s something that’s extremely important.”
Kate Elizabeth Queram is a staff correspondent for Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.