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Free Tampons, Pads To Become Available In California Schools

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

This is part of our series on new California laws taking effect in 2018.

In an effort to help young girls remain comfortable while learning, California will require free tampons and pads in some schools next year. 

The law, authored by Democratic Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, requires public schools serving students in grades 6 through 12 — where 40 percent of students fall below the poverty line — to provide free pads and tampons in half of bathrooms. About 4,000 schools will have to comply.

Supporters of the law say low-income students may not have feminine hygiene products on hand when their periods arrive. Tampon and pad dispensers often require change and aren't always well stocked. 

Some schools keep these products in the nurse's office, but Nancy Kramer, founder of the national Free The Tampons Foundation, said this isn't an ideal solution.

"I have a library of stories about women that were traumatized by going to the nurse’s office and having a boy sitting there on the cot sick and being forced to ask for a tampon or pad in front of him," she said.

"Or just the lack of access and what it meant for education, leaving the classroom, having to go to the nurse's office, get what you need, having people whisper about you and all those social cues that happen that are just unnecessary."

Cordelia Longo, a 15-year-old from Mercer Island, Washington, said she and her friends have had frustrating experiences with empty tampon dispensers at school. Earlier this year she circulated a petition and convinced her school to provide the supplies in bathrooms for free.

She said California's law will help girls remain comfortable, which enables them to learn.

"It’s a great step towards equality," she said. "We need this. We need feminine hygiene products to be available to students everywhere, and I think this is a great start."

Only the California Right to Life Committee opposed the bill, arguing that individuals — not taxpayers — should be responsible for the cost of feminine hygiene products.

Funding for the pads and tampons will come from the school or school district's operating budget, said Teala Schaff, a spokeswoman for Garcia's office. There will be a two to three million dollar one-time, overall cost, and an estimated $1.8 million a year going forward. 

Brown signed Garcia's bill into law in October, along with a number of other policies affecting women, children and families. 

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