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UPDATES!  *HB0205 – Public Schools – Provision of Menstrual Hygiene Products – Requirement  – In the House – Third Reading Passed (93-43)  In the Senate – Third Reading Passed with Amendments (47-0) *SB0427 – In the Senate – Third Reading Passed (47-0)  In the House – Third Reading Passed with Amendments (102-33)
Lead bill sponsors: Delegate Kirill Reznik and Senator Sarah Elfreth

Great news! HB0205 and SB0427 became state law due the great diligence of legislators and advocates for the last three years! Thank you Delegate Reznik for his tireless advocacy for this legislation for the past three years, and for the leadership of the Chair of the House Ways & Means Committee, Delegate Anne Kaiser, for her defense of the bill on the house floor. Thank you, Senator Cheryl Kagan, for identifying a solution to have the installation of the dispensers be deemed a capitol expense to be included in the state budget, and allowing schools to seek reimbursement.  Thank you Senator Elfreth and Delegate Reznik in working out the details with their respective committees, the Senate Budget & Taxation Committee and the House Appropriations Committee for securing the funding.  Thank you, Senator Mary Washington, for your efforts as floor leader in presenting and defending both HB0205 and SB0427 in the senate floor.  Thank you, Senator Katie Frye Hester, for your comments during senate committee voting session about how asking an elementary school student to request such products from the school nurse – who may or may not be in the school building – is simply not enough. Thank you school staff, youth advocates, students, and allied organizations for your support through written and oral testimony.

Know that the bill did get amended to:

  • include elementary schools, but not gender neutral or male-designated restrooms (we saved elementary schools from a prior amendment and got them back in);
  • delay the start date from October 1, 2021 to October 1, 2022 to require at least one restroom in each elementary school and two in each middle and high school to have the dispensers installed, but dispensers are to be installed in ALL female-designated restrooms by September 1, 2025;
  • and mandate that the state budget in 2023 will have $500,000 set aside to reimburse schools for installing the dispensers according to a plan submitted by the school districts to the Maryland State Department of Education by November 1, 2022.
  • Remember that this law serves as a baseline, and that schools can do more than the law authorizes.  We anticipate future legislation  to include gender neutral restrooms and at least one male-designated restroom in each building.  Always more work to be done.
  • Student activists can get ready to work with the schools to ensure that the “size appropriate” part of the legislation will be implemented, as well as keeping an eye on the quality of the products stocked in the dispensers.

The Menstrual Equity Alliance for Maryland Students (MEAMS) is comprised of allied groups and individuals dedicated to students having free and easy access to menstrual hygiene products on campus.  During the 2021 Maryland General Assembly, MEAMS will be advocating for the passage of HB0205/SB0427 which calls for school districts to develop policies to roll out initiatives to provide free menstrual hygiene products in dedicated dispensers in school restrooms over the next 5 years. You can read the bill here and our fact sheet here.

Facts about the bill and Q &A:

This legislation calls for size appropriate tampons or sanitary napkins to be provided to public school students at no charge via dispensers in public school restrooms.

Each public middle or high school shall provide these products in at least two restrooms, and each public elementary school shall install a dispenser at least one restroom before October 1, 2021.  On or before August 1, 2025, all female designated restrooms and gender non-specific restrooms, and at least one male designated restroom, shall have the products made available.

We need your help!  There were quite a few questions about the bill during the senate committee hearing, and we don’t want any of it to get watered down or leave certain populations of students left out.

Why do we need to pass a state law?  Very few school districts are offering these products to students, and current state law only requires school nurses to provide products to students experiencing housing instability.  Menstrual equity as a bridge to education equity should not depend on which Maryland school district a student is enrolled.

Why is having the school nurse provide these products not enough?  Because current required law only applies to students experiencing housing instability, we want these products to be offered to all students who may be in need.  The location of the school nurse and limited available office hours create barriers for too many students seeking timely and urgent access.  The restrooms are the correct spaces for these products to be accessed and used.

Why include restrooms in elementary schools?  Approximately 30 to 50% of young people begin menstruation before the age of 12, and can begin as early as age 8.  Young people just beginning menstruation often have more unpredictable cycles for which is it difficult to prepare each and every day at school.

Why include restrooms that are designated for males? Although menstruation is usually associated with female biology and reproductive anatomy, menstruation is not limited to females, and not all females menstruate. Because transgender males and gender non-conforming students may also experience menstruation, menstrual hygiene products must be available in all restrooms. This considered, it is also critical that Maryland schools provide size-appropriate menstrual products in public elementary, middle, and high schools in order to effectively serve students across age and racial differences, as well as sex and gender identity differences.

Why should the school districts pay for these products? This legislation seeks to recognize that menstrual hygiene products are as essential as toilet paper, hand soap, and paper towels.  Menstruating is a natural, involuntary biological reality.  These are not products that are for students engaged in special or extraordinary activities, they are products students need to maintain good health and self-confidence – and not all students are in a financial position to afford them or have predictable menstrual cycles that won’t disrupt the school day.

Should we be concerned about potential waste of these products or vandalism of the dispensers? Offering the products to students does not spark waste and vandalism – if a school is experiencing waste of toilet paper and paper towels along with vandalism of restrooms by students, then that is a school climate issue for that school in which the students are trying to demonstrate their frustration or anger about something happening at school.  Students in need of these products so they can come to school and attend class should not be ignored out of fear on the very slim chance that hoarding and vandalism might occur.  The menstrual equity movement is pretty strong across today’s schools, which has brought a heighten amount of awareness and respect about the issue among students.  We need to stop thinking so poorly of our youth.

Will the purchase of the dispensers and their installation be costly to the school districts?  They need not be.  It will be up to each school district to determine how the products will be dispensed.  We strongly suggest that the school districts purchase the high-quality plastic $35 dispenser being used at the University of Baltimore School of Law restrooms. Easy installation and durable!

 

 

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We fight for a future that includes access to all reproductive health care no matter your zip code or employer. Maryland must lead the charge. Are you with us?