The public school menstrual cycle stigma

 

Attending a public school including around 700 students as well as overflowing toilets, empty toilet paper holders, and trash littered around the campus daily, I have never held Orcutt Academy’s physical state to a high standard. The messy restroom has been an ongoing topic of conversation since I began my attendance in the Fall of 2016. But something that doesn’t seem to get enough coverage is the fact that menstrual products are not readily available for high school girls in our bathrooms.

 

Both the front and back Orcutt Academy bathrooms fail to hold the necessary feminine hygiene products for the girls in attendance. Girls in need of these products must make the unnecessary, let alone awkward trip to the front office to quietly and secretly ask for a pad or tampon. 

 

The fact of the matter is, girls should be provided these products to make their school lives easier and save the awkward conversation with people they barely know in the front office.

 

Junior at Orcutt Academy Miranda Mejia says, “I asked some of my friends if they had a tampon because going to the office is kind of a last resort for me.” She then goes on to explain, “I went into the office and they just handed me some off brand product, and handed it to me out in the open which made me feel a little uncomfortable.”

 

Mejia describes herself as a confident person, however in times like this where she is already uncomfortable because she has to ask someone random for a feminine product, she feels her confidence slump. “It’s not that I’m uncomfortable with my period, it’s the fact that I have to be so open about it with people I barely know.”

 

Senior Olivia Bailey hasn’t yet had the courage to make that trip. “I’ve needed to get a tampon from the office, but it was too much work and it was awkward for me, so I decided to just ask around.”

 

Mejia and Bailey, and hundreds of other girls that have passed through Orcutt Academy, have gone without these products necessary to function in school for years. The new topic of conversation should not just be the cleanliness of the restrooms, but rather what is provided in them for the students.

 

According to womensnews.org, “Currently, in the United States, only three states—California, Illinois, and New York— require schools serving students in grades six through twelve to provide menstrual products in women’s restrooms for free.” Though Orcutt Academy does stock tampons and pads in the front office, the problem at hand is that they are not kept in an area where female students can easily access them. 

 

Female students are learning to find comfort in their bodies, and keeping tampons in the bathroom would help with their transition, and keep their periods private. 

 

This issue can be solved  simply: allow for there to be necessary feminine hygiene products in the women’s restrooms where they should be in the first place. 

 

Nightingale Elementary school, containing grades from pre-kindergarten to sixth grade, have made it a priority to have tampon and pad dispensers in their bathrooms for students who need them. Ariana Cross, senior at Orcutt Academy stated, “I had gone there the morning before I left to be a camp counselor at science camp and needed to use the restroom when I saw that it had one of these vending machines. I was like ‘It’s so weird that we still don’t have one of these, but an elementary school does.’”

 

Orcutt Union School District faculty will argue that students may take advantage of having these products in the restroom; that people are going to steal, going to do inappropriate things, or that they are not going to appreciate what is being offered to them. Orcutt Academy has never had these resources in its restrooms since it first transitioned from an elementary school to a high school in 2009, which means they have not experienced any of these problems first hand. 

 

In order to see whether or not these issues will take place, there must be a trial run.

 

If faculty is worried about students stealing, the least that could be offered is a dispenser placed in the restroom. There happens to be a dispenser on Amazon for less than $300, and I know we can find that somewhere in the school budget. 

 

Allow the female students to make the choice for themselves whether or not they will treat these products with respect, or keep them hidden away with the front office faculty.

 

From then on, a decision can be made based on the trial, and may go from there.

 

Female high school students should be presented with the necessary products to get through each school day comfortably. By providing these products, students will not only feel more comfortable, but feel as though they are valued and looked after while in school.