Menstrual product dispensers added to Jackson-Reed bathrooms

Leah Carrier, Managing Editor

All girls bathrooms were equipped with pad and tampon dispensers over February break. The dispensers charge ¢25 for each product. 

These new installations were financed using funding delegated by the “Expanding Student Access to Period Products Emergency Act of 2022” passed by DC Council in January 2022, effective March 15, 2022.

Introduced by Councilmember Brooke Pinto of Ward 2, the Act requires all DC middle schools and high schools to install at least one period product dispenser in every women’s and gender-neutral bathroom. It specifies that products must be free of charge to students––a provision that Jackson-Reed’s installations do not comply with.

According to Principal Sah Brown, “the mindset behind [non-free products] is that if it were an open dispensary, it increases the chances of people not using the products for their intended purposes.” 

Brown noted that for students who don’t have the financial means to pay for the products using the dispenser, the nurse and some other members of staff will continue to provide them for free. He emphasized that the “quarter is not going to be an impediment to prevent [students from getting the products they need].”

Jackson-Reed’s school nurse, Wonjiku McCarthy, said that pads, and soon tampons, will always be available to students in her office. 

Still, Councilmember Pinto stresses that “requiring students to pay for period products goes against the letter of the law,” adding that she will follow up with the Office of the State Superintendent of Education to ensure compliance. Her work with high school interns was the original inspiration for her legislation, many of whom told her that “they and their friends missed school because they didn’t have access to period products or were anxious about asking the nurse for a pad or tampon.”

The new dispensers have received mixed reviews from students.

Emma Yeboah, a senior, has not personally used the dispensers, but noted that requiring payment “might make it a little inconvenient for people, especially nowadays where it’s less common for someone to carry around change.” While she appreciates the attempt to make period products more accessible, she feels that the execution fell short.

“I can see how [assigning a price] is a protection so that people don’t take products they don’t need,” senior Grezzia Moscoso said. “But on the other side, not everyone has coins.”

Sophomore Zinnia Deora echoed the inconvenience. “There have been times when I have needed a pad before but don’t have a quarter on me.” Deora also wishes there had been more communication about the coin collection. “I want to see where that money is going.”

Additional provisions of the Act called for the implementation of period health education guidelines and the posting of informational signs near each period product dispenser by March 15, 2023. According to Zoe Ades, Councilmember Pinto’s Communications Director, the signs are still being developed, and “should be released soon alongside finalized menstrual education standards.” •