A North Vancouver school trustee is applauding new measures by the province to require menstrual products be provided free in public school washrooms.
Trustee Cyndi Gerlach said the move will help relieve anxiety for girls, and provide a way for them to deal with normal bodily functions in private, without having to go to the school office or counsellor’s office to ask for products.
“I’m just really, really pleased that it’s a topic we’re discussing in public. It’s about time,” said Gerlach.
On Friday, Education Minister Rob Fleming announced that under a ministerial order, all B.C. public schools will be required to provide free menstrual products for students in school washrooms by the end of 2019.
The move follows a decision of the New Westminster board of education in February to install free tampon and menstrual pad dispensers in school washrooms.
In March, prior to the minister’s announcement, Gerlach urged her colleagues during a regular school board meeting to follow New Westminster’s example and said she would be asking for support to get staff to look into costs
Currently there are no dispensers in North Vancouver school washrooms. Free menstrual products are available in schools, through either the front office or from counsellors, but students have to ask for them.
“Not every girl is going to be comfortable with that,” said Gerlach, adding some students come from cultures where even talking about menstruation is taboo.
Having the free products will help girls who happen to have their menstrual periods while at school and would prefer to keep that private, as well as those whose families struggle to afford menstrual products, said Gerlach.
“Girls, when their bodies start to change, they shouldn’t have to worry about being prepared all the time,” she added.
The order applies to both elementary and high school washrooms, said a spokesman for the ministry.
The ministry has announced $300,000 in “startup funding” and has committed to providing funding to meet the new requirement.
The New Westminster school district, which has about half the number of students as North Vancouver, had estimated a startup cost of about $10,000 to install dispensers and about $7,000 annually to stock them.