OPINION: Feminine hygiene products are a female student’s right. Period.

Sophomore Madelyn Abella visits the nurses’ office during 6th period. “I feel like [the school] should reach out to more girls, especially because the period products in the bathroom are empty. If more girls knew they were free in the nurse’s office, I feel like it would help a lot more in emergency situations,” sophomore Madelyn Abella said. Photo by Namratha Prasad.

It’s predictable and it makes its way through a woman’s body once a month. It’s a period. Call it your window of fertility or your guest of the month or whatever you desire. But it’s a period. It’s also a period of time in which a woman bleeds through her pants within an hour without the proper and necessary products to aid her. East is not providing the products that are necessary to keep students healthy. 

No matter how predictable these cycles may seem, they have a mind of their own. The amount of time between ovulation depends on a number of factors. If a woman were to so much as make a switch in her diet or lose or gain a few pounds, the whole cycle becomes unbalanced without a warning. This leads to those intense scenes of panic because students may not have a pad or tampon because they have absolutely no sure-fire means of knowing when their period is going to start. The problem then becomes the search to find or even make an apparatus to help save their pants and make them last through the rest of the day. 

I get it.

Talking about periods, pads, and the plethora of period products is taboo. 

But it shouldn’t be. 

These are important issues that face society today. In third world countries, women do not even have a means of getting a period product for fear of being shamed by other members of society. Some women are abused and even die just for getting their periods because of ancient practices and routines. It does not even have to be traced to countries far away from the US. In the United States itself, the government and big corporations place a luxury tax on these already expensive items. I even find myself having to look far and wide to find pads under $12. That should not be the case anywhere, yet it is the case everywhere. 

Even East makes it harder for girls to obtain a product that is necessary for them. 

The issue

The first obstacle that the students have to hurdle is the strength to ask teachers for a pass to the nurse’s office to even get a pad or tampon. They must go to the teacher in front of all the kids in their class, ask the teacher for a pass and inevitably get the worst question: “Why?”

As I said before, this topic should not be taboo at all. And it is not for some people. However, for the majority of the population, women do not want to explain the reason they have to go to the nurse or take off from work or even simply go to the bathroom to tend to their period. As much as I would love a society in which I could just speak freely about it, some people and companies or schools think that it is inappropriate to talk about those needs. And society simply thinks that it is taboo and will remain taboo until the end of time. 

So the student is left to answer the question with what society has deemed uncomfortable. Finally, when the girl gets her pass to the nurse’s office, which is school policy, she has to then muster the courage to ask for a pad or tampon from the nurses, at which point she is instructed to pay 25 cents for a cheap period product that will not even last the whole day. Darnell argues that students do not need a nurse’s pass, and simply need to take the bathroom pass in order to get the pad or tampon from the nurse. However, this would yield suspicion among DA’s and that is just one more person who does not need to know the student’s business. This then brings up the third challenge, which is the fact that most high school students do not carry around money let alone change. Finally, even if they let her get away with a pad for free, she still has to pay the nurses back. This whole process is honestly a humiliating way of carrying out what should be a simple task of just getting a pad. It makes it seem like getting your period at school is a punishment. Even if the girl went to the bathroom and got a pad in the machine for 25 cents, it is still too expensive for the cheap product that comes out. The period products at the school should be free, and the process should be easier.  

In a law passed in 2018, Illinois school districts have been required to provide the products free of charge in all women’s restrooms. 

This is not the case at East. 

As much as I would love a society in which I could just speak freely about it, some people and companies or schools think that it is inappropriate to talk about those needs. And society simply thinks that it is taboo and will remain taboo until the end of time.

In a recent report by this publication, Assistant Principal Margaret Darnell explained that this quarter is simply a donation, however, this is not advertised. No one realizes that the 25 cents is a donation. In a poll taken from a cross-section of 500 girls at East, 54% of girls in the school are at least a little hesitant to buy a pad or tampon from the school due to the extenuating misconception that in order to receive a pad, they need a quarter. Of the same 500 girls, only 5% of girls at East know that the period products are free. If the quarter is truly just a donation, then the period products at school in the machines and the nurse’s office should be advertised as free.

Poll based on a cross-section of 500 female East students

When this publication reached out to Oswego High school, nurse Kelsey Boskelly explained that they “have the same procedures here at OHS. The hygiene product machines are free to females in all bathrooms; however, they are often empty due to people abusing the privilege.”

To what extent are you hesitant to get a period product from the nurses’ office because you discovered that you have to pay 25 cents for the product?
Poll based on a cross-section of 500 East females

This leads to another problem with how the school deals with the issue. 

The machines that are supposed to be working and providing girls with these “free products” do not work. They are either empty or broken. All the time. The administration claims that this is due to the accounts of vandalism such as clogged toilets or tampons on the ground. However, although this vandalism is annoying, it poses no threat to the population at East. If someone were to clog the toilets with toilet paper or vandalize the toilet paper holders, the administration would not take away toilet paper. That is because toilet paper is a necessity. But so are period products. The dangers of not having a pad or tampon during a period are simply too obvious to not have free period products that are easily accessible.

Read more: Female students lack easy access to feminine hygiene products. Period.

A viable solution to the issue 

The simplest idea to solve this issue is to put a tub full of the products in all of the female bathrooms at East. It could be just like the machines the school already has, but instead of a slot for the quarter, students can slide their IDs into a scanner such as those found in the LRC by all the printers. If students forget their ID, they can type their ID numbers into a system. Once their IDs are accounted for, the tub will open up. There are electronic boxes that can be used for instances such as these. This will not charge the students, but it will take note of who needed a pad or tampon. This is also a way that East can decrease its vandalism by these products because students will be held accountable for the time they scanned their ID for the product, making it easier to catch people and assign punishments, while also curbing the desire to vandalize with these products altogether. This process would make it easier and less awkward to obtain a period product because it would not require a nurse’s pass, and the student would simply have to sign out with a bathroom pass, which is a completely normal task. 

According to Amazon.com, for two scanners, the cost is about $170. However, the system where all these names would be stored on would be free, if the school used an app such as five star. Additionally, the number of period products that are wasted on vandalism will decrease, making the products last longer without the need to be replaced, saving the school hundreds of dollars. Although this solution may end up costing a bit of money, we can use the donations we received from selling the products for 25 cents and implement a process that helps girls all around the school.

This is a hard line to tread however. The state of Illinois does not give any money to the school for the purchasing of these products or these infrastructures. In fact, Darnell explained that the school simply does not have the money for the implementation of this technology. She explained that she would be happy to implement any student-made contraption, if that were to be made, as long as it would be free for the school. However, no matter how good a free contraption and system may sound, the fact that East does not even make an effort to locate any money towards this issue is a problem. Darnell even said that to her knowledge, the paper products and bathroom supplies budget does not cover period products. I know the school and district are financially broke, but I never realized until now that their priorities are a bit bankrupt as well.

One way East could possibly receive these products free is the care closet. However, this is the same humiliating walk down to the care closet. 

The process at East is incredibly humiliating and leaves girls in an awkward situation. The fact that the pads are free, but we collect a donation, is ridiculous. No one realizes that this is the case, which leads me to believe that the whole thing is just one big con. 

If East wants to support young women, then East should invest in free period products.

Namratha Prasad is the Features Editor for Oswego East High School’s online news magazine the Howl

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