RI lawmaker wants to make feminine hygiene products free, accessible to students

Health

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ A Rhode Island lawmaker says she wants to make feminine hygiene products easily accessible for students.

This week, Sen. Valarie Lawson, D-East Providence, filed a bill to make feminine hygiene products free in all public schools teaching grades 6-12.

The bill states the products would be made available in all gender-neutral bathrooms and any female designated bathrooms.

“This is a part of everyday life,” Lawson said.

Lawson, a social studies teacher at East Providence High School, said she sees the need firsthand.

“To hear that kids don’t attend schools because they lack access is sad,” Lawson said. “They may not be able to afford it.”

Last year, a menstrual hygiene pilot program allowed some Providence schools access to free feminine hygiene products.

Similar programs are also in place in some Massachusetts schools, and a bill similar to Lawson’s has been referred to the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Education.

Lawson’s bill is just the latest effort to make feminine hygiene products more accessible. Last year, Rhode Island lawmakers eliminated what’s become known as the “tampon tax.”

“I think this is the next step. It’s about helping kids succeed and this is an easy way to do that,” Lawson said.

Regarding cost, Lawson says she’s reached out to the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE). A spokesperson for RIDE tells Eyewitness News the department is looking into it.

“I don’t think it will be a significant cost, and I think the benefit outweighs that,” Lawson said.

Lawson’s bill has been sent to the Senate Committee on Education for discussion. If passed, the bill would take effect starting in Fall 2021.

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