The program, called the Menstrual Care Program, is currently in place at some DPS schools, but the school board voted to make the program part of district policy, meaning free menstrual products will be provided for all students in the district.
“We’ve had students that have to pick between a bus pass and pads or tampons…with this policy we are ending period poverty in DPS,” Anderson told Rocky Mountain PBS.
[Related: Colorado nonprofit tackles period poverty on Pine Ridge Reservation]
Period poverty refers to the social, economic and political barriers people who menstruate face when trying to obtain menstrual supplies.
According to a study commissioned by period solutions company Thinx and the nonprofit organization PERIOD., more than four in five teens have either missed class time or know a classmate who missed class time because they did not have access to period products. The study also showed that one in five teens in the United States either struggled to purchase menstrual supplies or could not purchase them at all.
“We need to ensure that there is equity…we have toilet paper, no questions asked. This is an opportunity for us to ensure that we have the proper necessities for equity amongst all students by ensuring that we have those products available,” Anderson said.
The initiative was originally started by then-student Caitlin Soch in 2020, but was halted due to the pandemic. Now that students are back in schools, Facility Management, Nursing Services, Finance, Facilities Operations and the Board of Education are working together to make the proposal a reality.
According to a presentation by DPS Executive Director of Facility Management Trena Marsal, the cost to purchase all the dispensers and initial stock of the products was around $30,000. The dispensers were installed in 813 bathrooms in 74 school buildings by volunteers from Home Depot. Many of the initial supplies were donated by the Cushman Neal family, a local donor.
Marsal estimates that the program will cost the district around $108,000 per year, an estimate based on the usage of the products over nine months, although the pandemic could have affected those numbers. The money comes from the district's facilities budget, the same budget used to purchase items like toilet paper and other toiletries.
[Related: For Years, Western Scientists Stigmatized Periods. We're Living the Consequences.]