An amendment to the California Education Code, the Menstrual Equity for All Act of 2021 was signed into law on Oct. 8, requiring that free menstrual products be available in all public schools from grades six to 12, as well as at all Cal States, UCs and community colleges across the state.
Existing law only required the products be available in public schools for which 40% of pupils were below the poverty line. Even then, only 50% of restrooms had to be stocked with products.
Elisa Novo, a senior chemistry major and resident assistant in the University of La Verne’s Citrus dorm, said she began on her own placing baskets of free menstrual products in her residents’ bathrooms.
Novo said her own middle school experience could have been better when it came to menstrual products at school.
“I had to pay for (them) and I just remember thinking, I didn’t choose to have this, you know? Life happens so I’m glad I can help during those times of need,” Novo said.
The language of the new state legislation emphasizes gender equity “not only for women and girls, but also for transgender men, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming people, who may also menstruate and experience inequities resulting from lack of access to menstrual products,”
The legislation also requires the products be available not only in all girls’ and women’s restrooms, but also in all all-gender restrooms, and one men’s bathroom on campus.
“It’s progress, a step forward,” said Taylor Hagin, a junior educational studies major and president of the LGBTQ+ Coalition.
By requiring the products in at least one men’s restroom, the law tells people that some people who present as male may need these products, Hagin said.
The legislation notes that school attendance is often improved when menstrual products are available to students.
Judy Holiday, associate professor of writing, said that the new law is important and could promote medical and emotional health.
The new law also requires schools to post notice of the newly available products in campus restrooms that provide them, including the contact email and phone number of the designated individual in charge of supplying them.
It suggests that private California schools and universities to also stock “an adequate supply of menstrual products, available and accessible, free of cost, at no fewer than one designated and accessible central location on each campus.”
Holiday believes the University of La Verne should supply students with free menstrual products.
“That’s similar to why we have a food bank,” Holiday said. “Because we do have students who are financially insecure… We shouldn’t avoid a need just because it requires money.”
Lindsey Pacela can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.