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Behind the Bar | Education | Legislature

Bill proposes a school-based solution to ‘period poverty’

Students walk on the Valley High School campus on Thursday, November 16, 2017. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

By some estimates, 1 in 5 girls misses school because she can’t afford menstrual products — a situation known as “period poverty.”

Proposed legislation spearheaded by Samantha Glover, a student at the Davidson Academy in Reno, aims to change that by making feminine hygiene products available for free in middle and high school bathrooms. AB224, which received its first committee hearing Tuesday, has bipartisan support through five primary sponsors and 18 co-sponsors.

Glover, cofounder and executive director of Red Equity, which combats period poverty, said schools that do provide free menstrual products often keep them in the nurse’s office. That means lost learning time, as girls must take steps to secure needed supplies before visiting a restroom.

The bill received passionate testimony from current and former Nevada students who recounted their own experiences searching for tampons or pads or helping a friend do so. Jenny Jiang — now a sophomore at the University of California, Berkeley — described it as a “common thread” for many students that leads to shame.

“The lack of accessible period products in my school meant a monthly ritual of wrapping cheap, single-ply toilet paper around my underwear to form a makeshift pad—which, besides being wholly ineffective, was frankly humiliating,” she said.

Nevada would be following in the footsteps of several states, including Virginia, California, New Hampshire, New York and Illinois, that have passed similar legislation. 

But AB224 ran into opposition from both the Washoe and Clark county school districts. Their lobbyists praised the intention of the bill but said past incidents involving misuse of menstrual products have led to plumbing damage within school buildings, hence their placement in nurse’s offices; however, both school districts expressed willingness to consider solutions that would mitigate the financial risks.

“Thank you guys so much to help ensure equity and dignity is provided to all Nevada students so that nobody is ever missing class time because they can’t afford period products,” Glover said.

Editor’s Note: This story first appeared in Behind the Bar, The Nevada Independent’s newsletter dedicated to comprehensive coverage of the 2021 Legislature. Sign up for the newsletter here.

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