LA committee proposes bill requiring schools to provide free, easy-to-access menstrual products |

By Allison Allsop of the LSU Manship School Press Office

BATON ROUGE — The Louisiana House Committee on Education introduced a bill requiring schools to provide free, easy-to-access menstrual products, primarily in school bathrooms.

Kendra Reed, a Junior League volunteer, said, “We don’t want the girls to miss school because they don’t have a five-cent notepad.

The bill, House Bill 195, was created by Rep. Aimee Adatto Freeman, D-New Orleans, and moved forward last week without objection.

School absenteeism is a big problem among girls facing so-called ‘periodic poverty’. Many do not go to school because they do not have access to menstrual supplies.

While some schools already supply these products to the nurse’s office or the main office, many schools still do not. A trip to one of these offices can take up class time. By requiring schools to provide the products in places like bathrooms, this bill would help those who cannot afford the products and reduce missed class time.

As Belinda Davis, member of the board of elementary and secondary education and professor at LSU, said: “I think this legislation will do a very good job of forcing school districts to have a comprehensive plan for how they address this issue.”

The cost of the requirements would be the responsibility of local schools and school districts. The bill’s tax note says costs may vary from school to school, depending on whether a school currently has a distribution method.

Dispensers for bathrooms cost around $300. The cost of menstrual products will vary from school to school depending on the number of dispensers. The tax note said the price for 500 tampons and 250 pads would be $120.

A student, Ananya Bhatia, spoke before the committee to show her support for the bill. She is a high school student at Caddo Magnet in Shreveport.

“I come to you as a student from Louisiana, as the face of girls asking their state to take care of their most basic needs,” Bhatia said. “You have the power to end this vicious circle… We can no longer shoulder a burden for which you, as leaders, have the solution before you today.”

The problem of menstrual poverty is widespread in the United States. It is defined as the inability to buy or access basic menstrual products such as tampons, sanitary napkins or menstrual cups. According to a survey conducted by PERIOD and Thinx, an underwear company, 1 in 4 college students, especially in low-income or rural areas, will suffer from period poverty.

Eleven states already have bills requiring schools to provide menstrual products, and at least 20 states have eliminated the tax on menstrual products. These laws help women in all states have better and more affordable access.

The Louisiana Legislature voted in 2021 to eliminate a tax on menstrual products, called the “pink tax,” effective June 2022. This bill was also drafted by Freeman.

Rep. Jason Hughes, one of the co-authors of the latest bill, said: ‘And at the end of the day, just like toilet paper, paper towels and soap are provided in the washrooms for me as men, we need to make sure that all the necessary tools for our young girls are provided. And at the end of the day, it’s the right thing to do, dear members.

The bill is due to be debated in the House on May 5. If passed by both houses and signed by the governor, it will be signed into law for the 2023-2024 school year.

Christy J. Olson