Picture yourself in history class. You’re taking a test after studying for months, and suddenly you feel that you have started your period. You raise your hand and ask your teacher to go to the bathroom but your teacher says you have to complete your test first. You finish your test quickly and unfocused so you can leave class, but then you realize you don’t have any pads or tampons. You go to the bathroom hoping you run into a friend or can text someone to help you out, but no one answers. By this time, you realize you’ve bled through your clothes so you have to wrap your jacket around your waist until you can change. You head to the nurse’s office on the other side of campus to ask for a pad or tampon knowing it will make you late to your next class. Hopefully it doesn’t cost money because you don’t have any.
AB 367 aims to address this problem. Access to menstrual products is an issue that affects my friends and me often, and it puts a toll on our education and self-dignity. My friends have shared lots of stories. One of my fellow Youth Liberty Squad members shared that she started her period for the first time in math class when she was 11 years old. When she went to the nurse’s office for supplies, the nurse said pads cost $1. That day she happened to have no money and had to ask her friends for help. She says that not having money did not stop the flow of her period, but it did inhibit her from accessing menstrual products and prevented her from resuming her school day.
I also know firsthand the experience of getting an infection, leading to several missed days of school and an urgent care trip for antibiotics, after having to use toilet paper instead of pads because I couldn’t access products at school.
Many students who menstruate have similar stories. Having personally faced the hardships, shame and frustration of not having access to menstrual products at school, I am passionate about passing AB 367 to ensure others don’t continue to face the same barriers to accessing equitable social and educational opportunities.
Periods are natural and show up unexpectedly, many times while at school. Students should not have to feel embarrassed and deserve better access to menstrual products. Data shows one in four students reported missing school because of their periods and one in five students said they can’t afford menstrual products. Managing your period should only require one stop at the bathroom, just like hand soap and toilet paper, and should not cost crucial education time or your health.
AB 367 would provide free menstrual products in schools teaching 6-12th grade, California state universities, community colleges, and public buildings. Passing this law would not only help students like me and my friends, but many other people in California too by recognizing menstrual products as a basic human necessity.
We’d also like to say a special thank you to those who shared stories, including Youth Liberty Squad Student Mia Torres.