Oregon schools place tampons in boys' and girls' restrooms for 'menstrual dignity'

State advises schools to say 'menstruating students' instead of girls

A gender-neutral bathroom is seen at the University of California, Irvine in Irvine, California, September 30, 2014. The University of California will designate gender-neutral restrooms at its 10 campuses to accommodate transgender students, in a move that may be the first of its kind for a system of colleges in the United States. | (Photo: Reuters/Lucy Nicholson)

Schools in Oregon will place menstrual products in all student restrooms, including the boys’ bathroom, reportedly to affirm the right to “menstrual dignity” for their “transgender, intersex, nonbinary, and two spirit students.” 

The Oregon Department of Education released a “Menstrual Dignity for Students Toolkit” in March, instructing schools to place women’s hygiene products in the boys’ and girls’ restrooms by the end of the 2023 school year. All education providers must also provide instructions on how to use the products in a way that is "medically-accurate" and affirms students’ gender identities.

The toolkit also advises schools to use “gender-affirming language" when talking about menstruation, such as “menstruating students” instead of “girls.” During puberty education, staff members should say, “someone with a uterus and ovaries may begin to menstruate” instead of “girls may begin to menstruate.”

In addition, the document says that schools should use the term “menstrual products” instead of “feminine hygiene products” for the sake of inclusivity. When referring to students, the toolkit suggests using “students,” “folks” “everyone,” “learners,” or “they/them” instead of “boys and girls” or “he or she.”

Oregon’s Department of Education appears to be complying with House Bill 3294, “The Menstrual Dignity Act,” signed into law last year by Gov. Kate Brown. The act requires schools to provide free menstrual products for all students in elementary, middle and high school. The legislation also created the Menstrual Dignity for Students Program to alleviate the economic and “experiences of shame” that can prevent access to period products. 

A statement released in support of the bill cited a joint study conducted by Thinx Inc., a period solutions company known for creating period-proof underwear; and PERIOD, a youth-led nonprofit that combats period-related stigma. The study analyzed 1,000 U.S. teens ages 13 to 19 and their access to menstrual products.

The survey suggested that one in five teens cannot afford the cost of menstrual products, and one in four have reportedly missed class due to a lack of access to period products. While the study said economic barriers pose a “significant” barrier, it asserted that “cultural and structural obstacles” are also part of the problem. 

Under the act, schools were required to provide dispensers in at least two restrooms per school and all restrooms by this upcoming July. 

Roseburg High School published a November article in its student newspaper, Orange R, titled, “Student’s Perspective: Menstrual Dignity Act.” Sage Acree, a sophomore at the time, said she found out about the free products via a school email and then saw them in the bathroom. 

“I’m glad they added products in the bathroom for the girls, but when the products are literal garbage, it doesn’t really help a lot of people,” she said in a statement to the paper, noting the poor quality of the feminine hygiene products. 

Another student, Jaiden Cerda, also a sophomore at the time, “provided a guy’s point of view” about the presence of women’s hygiene products in the boys’ bathroom. The teen disclosed that many boys were using the products in a “disrespectful” way rather than how they should be used. 

“It’s not good because it’s against the law, and if you get caught, you can get into huge trouble,” Cerda. 

Oregon is not the only state to require schools to place menstrual products in the boys’ and girls’ restrooms. House Bill 156 in Illinois was signed into law by Gov. J.B. Pritzker last August, requiring schools to provide free menstrual products in boys’ and girls’ restrooms for grades four through 12.

During debates about the Illinois legislation, Washington Examiner reported that State Rep. Kathleen Willis said the bill is necessary to address the health needs of female students who identify as the opposite gender. 

“If you are biologically a female, but identifying as a male, you’re going to menstruate and you’re going to need these products,” Willis said. 

Christian organizations, like Focus on the Family, believe that God only created two genders, encouraging Christians and encourages Christians “seek to live in grace and truth.”

“Though your child may be confused or influenced by messages to the contrary, we believe there’s comfort in the assurance that God created your child in His image — distinctly male or female," the organization stated in a 2017 document.

While the organization contended that there is “no quick fix or easy answer” for individuals who may be suffering from gender dysphoria, it proposed prayer, counsel and the power of the Holy Spirit as potential tools for helping children embrace their biological sex. 

“As a parent, you have the opportunity to encourage and nurture your child toward embracing this truth and pursuing God’s design for his or her life,” Focus on the Family wrote.

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