A Public School Wants to Eliminate the Tampon Taboo

The New York City campus will become the city’s first to offer free sanitary products to students.

(Photo: Bill Reitzel/Getty Images)

Sep 24, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Jennifer Swann is TakePart’s culture and lifestyle reporter.

A new service unveiled on Tuesday at a New York City high school won’t be available in classrooms, the cafeteria, or the gymnasium. Instead, the pilot program at High School for Arts and Business in Corona, Queens, is nestled in the women’s bathroom, where students can now pluck pads and tampons from a dispenser free of charge. Proposed by New York City Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, the initiative aims to ensure all girls have access to feminine hygiene products. It’s the first program in the city to offer free tampons and pads at a public school.

“Offering free menstural care supplies as we do toilet paper and condoms is a matter of avoiding health risks, eliminating the stigma that surrounds a natural part of a woman’s life, and for girls in school, not having to skip class because they got their period,” Ferreras-Copeland said in a statement. “Feminine hygiene products allow women and girls to carry out their daily responsibilities uninterrupted, and they should always be easily accessible.”

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While installing a tampon dispenser in a restroom may not seem like a radical idea, access to feminine hygiene products can mean the difference between a girl showing up for class or staying home. Boxes of pads or tampons may not be within a family’s budget, especially in communities in Queens, where the poverty rate is slightly more than 20 percent and one in 10 children lives in a food-insecure home, according to the New York City Coalition Against Hunger. As Ferreras-Copeland said in an interview with The Cut, “There are many women that are struggling and many families that are struggling, and when you have to decide between buying food or buying pads, the food comes first.”

The dispenser, which is stocked with pads and tampons donated by national manufacturer Hospecto, is part of a larger push by the city council to install similar dispensers throughout public institutions, including parks, museums, and hospitals. It comes on the heels of a roundtable Ferreras-Copeland held this summer to address the health and hygiene needs of low-income and homeless women in the city. Along with New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Ferreras-Copeland plans to lobby lawmakers in Albany, the state capital, to repeal a sales tax on feminine hygiene products. In all states except five, pads and tampons are considered nonnecessary luxury goods and taxed as such.