Longhurst Proposal Supports Free Menstrual Hygiene Products in Schools

WILMINGTON – Acknowledging that many women struggle monthly to purchase basic menstrual hygiene products, lawmakers announced plans Thursday to provide tampons and pads to students throughout Delaware.

House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst and Sen. Elizabeth “Tizzy” Lockman’s proposal would require all Delaware public and charter schools that serve students in grades 6-12 to provide menstrual hygiene products in half of their bathrooms at no cost to the students by the 2020-21 school year.

“Period products are not a luxury. They are essential items for our daily lives. It’s a fact of life,” said Rep. Longhurst, D-Bear. “But the cost can be a barrier. Women of all ages struggle at some point in their lives to afford period products. The problem is magnified for low-income families, which puts stress on children as they mature.

“We have the opportunity and responsibility to take a stand for period equity by making tampons and pads available to all students who need them. Improving access to safe, sanitary products will help students go about their daily lives with dignity, and without shame or worry. I’m proud to take this step forward for Delaware children.”

According to a 2017 Confidence & Puberty study by Always, one in five girls in the United States have either left school early or missed school entirely because they did not have access to period products.

A study published in Obstetrics and Gynecology on low-income women found that women already experiencing food insecurity were more likely to struggle to purchase basic menstrual hygiene products, with 21% of women unable to afford them on a monthly basis. The 2013-17 American Community Survey indicated that approximately 38% of children in Delaware are considered low income.

“When families are already struggling to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads, putting aside money for period products can become an afterthought. We have to change the narrative so cost doesn’t become a barrier to this needed personal care,” said Sen. Lockman, D-Wilmington. “I don’t expect every student will need free menstrual hygiene products. But by providing safe, reliable access to those items, we are assuring that those students who do have a need are given a basic level of dignity while attending Delaware schools.”

The proposal builds off a law the General Assembly unanimously passed last year requiring Departments of Correction, and Services for Children, Youth and Their Families to provide tampons and sanitary napkins free of charge to individuals in their custody.

Several states, including California, Illinois, New York, and most recently, New Hampshire, have passed similar legislation requiring schools to make menstrual hygiene products available at no costs to students.

Rep. Longhurst said she expects to have legislation drafted in the coming months and filed before the General Assembly returns to session in January.