Oregon legislators are considering a bill to require public education institutions to provide free menstrual products in bathrooms. Students, teachers, legislators and representatives from the Oregon Education Association and the Oregon School Boards Association all spoke in support of the bill during a public hearing Tuesday.
Rep. Ricki Ruiz, D-Gresham, is one of the bill’s chief co-sponsors.
“As a legislator, we have taken large strides to promoting safe and comfortable learning environments for our students,” Ruiz said. “House Bill 3294 is a logical next step in ensuring we’re responding to the needs of our students.”
The bill would require all “public institutions of education” — schools, colleges, education service districts — to provide free tampons and sanitary pads in bathrooms. Schools would be required to install at least two dispensers by July 2022.
Bend Senior High student Olive testified alongside a classmate and teacher.
“If there were sanitary products in the bathrooms, students would see them on a daily basis and know where to go to obtain these products,” Olive said.
Bend Senior High teacher Matt Fox said he’s been working with students to end “period poverty,” by increasing access to menstrual products in schools. He said efforts haven’t been successful. He spoke on behalf of his students and his wife, a middle school teacher.
“From a male teacher perspective, I know that most students are not comfortable coming to me because of the shame and stigma our society has around menstruation. ... This should not be something that students have to worry about,” Fox said.
“School is a place where we assume that we are taking care of all of a student’s basic needs, but we are not, and we need to resolve this.”
Those who testified highlighted several local school districts who already provide menstrual products, including Tigard-Tualatin, Eugene and Corvallis.
Under a proposed amendment, money from the Oregon Department of Education would be allocated to funding the bill.
The amendment would also expand access to include gender-neutral restrooms.
Some who testified Tuesday pushed for menstrual products in all bathrooms, including male-only.
“This will show all of our youth, and especially our trans youth, that the bathroom they’re using, that affirms their gender, that it’s for them, and it has the products there that they might need,” said Anne Marie Backstrom, a Portland parent whose daughter is transgender.
A similar bill in 2019, HB 3020, failed in committee. Some students emphasized the urgency of passing a bill this session, to meet a significant health issue in Oregon schools.
Daphne, a Tualatin High School student who leads the school’s Period Club, shared a story of unexpectedly getting a period at school during a test, and the time-consuming search to find help.
“I had asked probably about 10 different random girls before I was able to find someone with a tampon,” Daphne shared.
“Relieved, I walked back to class, but couldn’t help but think about how much my pre-ACT score’s going to be affected by my absence, and how much easier the situation would’ve been if I was able to take care of my business right there in the bathroom.”