Austin ISD makes menstrual products accessible for all students


By Nayeli Santoyo

When classes start in August, Austin ISD students will have one fewer school supply to worry about—feminine hygiene products.

The district will be providing free sanitary napkins and tampons that otherwise could be hard for some students to get.

“No one wants to be caught in a situation where they’re bleeding and don’t have a tampon or pad on hand,” said Jenna Ramsey, former Austin ISD student.

Ramsey graduated from Austin High School in 2014 and said that having these products available and free back when she was in school would have eliminated the anxiety of bringing her own to school.

“School keeps you busy enough without worrying about whether you put a tampon in your bag before leaving home,” she said.

The idea was a collaboration among district departments, originating with the Office of Innovation and Development, who noticed the need and saw that other districts in the country offered this to their students.

Installation of dispensers with the hygiene products in middle and high school restrooms started at the beginning of July. Elementary students will also have access to the products, but there will be no dispensers installed in their schools. 

According to a report commissioned by Think & PERIOD—called State of the Period—1 in 5 teens struggle to afford to buy feminine hygiene products, and 4 in 5 teens have missed class because they don’t have access to the products they need. 

Their data was based on a survey of 1000 teens ages 13 to 19, which found several obstacles when it comes to access to the supplies. The study also found that not being able to prepare left teens feeling ashamed.

Ramsey said that she definitely had at least one embarrassing situation where she was in school and had her period and didn’t have anything to use for it.

“I definitely had days where I just didn’t want to go to school at all,” she said.

The report also found that 66 percent of teens didn’t want to be in school when they were on their period, and 69 percent said they were embarrassed to bring feminine hygiene products to the bathroom. 

The creators of the report emphasized the importance of bringing awareness to these challenges and of providing these products for free not only in schools, but also in shelters, prisons and jails.

“Having access to free products through my school or employer would probably save me a hundred dollars a year,” Ramsey said.

Christine Steenport, interim assistant superintendent of Operations, said installing the dispensers will cost the district about $85,000. The cost of providing the supplies will depend on student usage. 

Photo by Marco Verch via Creative Commons.