New Westminster school board votes to provide free tampons in schools

The New Westminster school board has voted in favour of supplying free pads and tampons in restrooms at the district’s schools.

Coin-free dispensers will be installed in all girls and universal restrooms in elementary, middle and secondary schools, making New West the first and only school district in B.C. to fund free pad and tampon dispensers at all its schools.

In a motion passed Tuesday, the school board hoped the move would “enhance the ability of students to manage menstruation without undue delay, embarrassment, financial burden or shame.”

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The school board also endorsed the Period Promise campaign by the United Way of the Lower Mainland. The campaign, which runs March 7 to April 4, invites people to donate menstrual products, to organize their own collection drive or to commit to providing menstrual products free of charge in facilities.

A delegation of United Way representatives gave a presentation at the Feb. 26 meeting, alongside Vancouver resident and activist Selina Tribe. Tribe began advocating for free sanitary products in schools earlier this year and has given presentations before several school districts. Tribe believes free and readily available pads and tampons could dramatically improve the school experience for some students.

“We know that girls, if they can’t manage their periods properly, they will remove themselves from activities, from extracurricular or athletic activities, also social activities, and in the worst case, they will actually miss school if they cannot manage their period,” she said.

The cost of installing the free dispensers is estimated at $10,000, while district staff say stocking them will cost about $7,000 annually.

Tribe expects the overall cost will amount to less than $1 per student by the second year of the program.

New West school board chairman Mark Gifford says the issue received little attention until it was brought to trustees.

“I think that’s a little bit of a reflection of some of the stigma that can be around having conversations about periods and menstruation, and it was a common-sense step for the board to take,” he said.

New West school trustees will ask the B.C. School Trustees Association to request that the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Finance fund all B.C. school districts to buy, install and supply free tampon and pad dispensers in bathrooms in every school in the province.

-With files from The Canadian Press

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