ARVADA, Colo. (CBS4) — What began as a student effort to get dispensers for feminine hygiene products in a school could end up changing state law. In all Colorado public school restrooms you’ll find free toilet paper, free hand soap and free paper towels. But in many – if not most – you won’t find any menstrual products.
The Intersectional Feminist Club at Arvada West is determined to change that. Board member Julia Trujillo says while the school nurse has menstrual products many girls are too embarrassed to go to the office to ask for one.
“A lot people we know will just leave school or not go if they don’t have access to these products.”
While girls represent half of all students, they say menstrual products are treated as luxuries rather than necessities at school. Research shows one in five girls has missed school because she didn’t have access to a pad or tampon.
Club member Jocelyn Gotfred says, “The beginning of the problem starts with the stigma around periods and that’s why so many people want to belittle this issue, because they believe menstrual hygiene products aren’t important when they really are.”
So important, the club went to school administration to request product dispensers in the school’s restrooms. They had no idea what they were getting into.
“We came in thinking that this wasn’t going to be a huge deal,” Gotfred said.
The girls say the administration told them there wasn’t money – so they raised it.
Then the administration said there weren’t custodians to stock dispensers – so they volunteered.
“We sort of have received a lot push back and we’ve gone against it every step of the way,” Trujillo said.
And they didn’t stop at their school. They’re now on a mission to help all schools by changing state law.
“We didn’t want the girls throughout other schools to have to put up the fight we did,” Gotfred said.
The girls asked their state representative, Brianna Titone, to introduce a bill to help all schools provide free menstrual products.
“I said ‘I will run the bill under one condition, that you have to run the bill with me,’… and I saw it as a real opportunity for these kids to get an education on what it takes for a bill to become law. New policy makers in the making here,” Titone said.
Four states have laws requiring their public schools to provide free menstrual products.
Titone’s bill sets up a grant program to help schools afford the products. It gives priority to those with more low income students.
The Intersectional Feminist Club at Arvada West raised $1,300 to buy three product dispensers and a private donor is paying for the products this year. Titone is looking for similar donors for the state grant program.