SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — A Missouri lawmaker is hoping to get free feminine hygiene products in school bathrooms across the state.
The bill was filed by State Representative Martha Stevens (D-Columbia).
Care to Learn, an agency that helps students who financially struggle with hygiene, hunger and health, says this bill would help students tremendously.
“This is an effort by the Missouri Legislature to provide funding to put free feminine hygiene products in schools for grades 6 through 12,” said Christian Mechlin, executive director at Care to Learn.
The proposed bill would have the state pay to stock school bathrooms with feminine hygiene products at no cost to the students.
“About 1 in 5 that either outright can’t afford, struggle to afford, don’t have access to these kinds of products,” Mechlin said. “A student who doesn’t have access to feminine hygiene products, who doesn’t have access to these resources, is going to miss potentially 30 to 35 days of school per year.”
But if the bill passes, the state would pay for feminine hygiene products instead of the districts themselves.
Right now, Springfield Public Schools (SPS) offers feminine hygiene products in nurses’ offices.
“Should a student not have those products with them, available for them, we want to make sure that they have access,” said Jean Grabeel, health services director at SPS. “We don’t charge students for them, they’re free of charge but we use our own budget and purchase those supplies for them.”
Mechlin says that going to the nurse’s office could draw unwanted attention.
“For one, a bathroom is a discrete place it’s somewhere a student can go, you don’t have to raise your hand and say I need to go to the nurse’s office,” Mechlin said. “This would be huge. To be able to say, in a blanket statement, that girls in school have access to essential items, that would allow us to put those resources towards other parts of our mission.”
This bill is similar to another bill, HB 2065, that aims to reduce taxes on feminine hygiene products and diapers.