PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The Rhode Island Senate passed a bill on Tuesday that would make feminine hygiene products free in all public schools teaching grades 6-12.
The act “Health and Safety of Pupils” was previously up for discussion shortly before the pandemic.
Feminine products (including tampons and sanitary napkins) could soon be available in all gender-neutral and female-designated bathrooms by the beginning of the 2022-23 school year.
Sen. Valarie Lawson, D-East Providence, a sponsor of the bill, reintroduced it this session where it recently passed the Senate Committee on Education.
“I think last year, my colleagues saw the need to provide feminine hygiene products in schools,” Lawson told 12 News Tuesday morning.
The need, Lawson says, comes down to cost.
According to a 2019 poll, the average woman surveyed spends $13.25 a month on menstrual products.
“We know that COVID-19 has hit families in all different ways especially economically,” Lawson said. “So, here provides one less worry for parents and students, and it’s something that is an easy fix for us. We can do this, we should do this.”
Lawson, also a high-school social studies teacher, says it would be up to individual school districts on how to implement the changes.
While many nurses offices provide tampons and sanitary napkins, Lawson says an option to consider would be installing machines that dispense the products in bathrooms.
“So, the real question is in regards to whether they want to install machines, that’s a cost and how much usage, there’ll be, will there be an uptick or not?” she said. “But, I think it’s money well spent to keep kids in school.”