DENVER — Denver Public Schools are now providing free women menstrual products at select schools throughout the district.
The women hygiene products arrived on Jan. 26, 2021.
Denver School Board Director Tay Anderson, who has been pushing for the move since 2019 with former Denver Public School student Caitlin Soch, said he was surprised when the products arrived.
Soch said the news was “a dream come true.” She spoke out at a rally held to push for period products in schools on Feb. 6, 2020.
“We will not be shamed for our periods,” Soch said at the rally.
At the time she was a senior at George Washington High School.
“The majority of my senior year I was trying to get this pushed,” Soch said.
Soch realized there was a serious need for women's menstrual products when she was in high school. She vividly recalls being completely out of tampons and there wasn’t anyone she could ask to help her out in the restroom. She remembers having to go to the nurse's office to ask for a tampon.
“I thought to myself, ‘There has to be a better way to do this and that this isn’t how things are supposed to be,’” she said she remembered thinking.
Soch spoke at the Colorado State Capitol in support of a House Bill to create a free menstrual hygiene product accessibility program in schools in 2020. The bill failed, but part of her fight prevailed with help from DPS School Board Director Anderson.
“Right now they (period products) are predominantly in non-binary and women’s restrooms. We are working on a resolution to expand them to male restrooms for students who menstruate that are trans and identify as male,” Anderson said.
He said the hygiene products will be paid for by the Denver Public Schools general fund, just like they pay for toilet paper.
A recent study found that one in five teens struggle to afford period products or can’t afford to buy them at all. One in four teens miss class because they don’t have access to menstrual products.
“We have students that came up to say, 'I am picking between a school lunch or a box of tampons,'” Anderson said.
More than 90,000 students attend DPS and 62% are on free or reduced lunch.
Colorado is one of 35 states that tax menstrual products.
Anderson plans to introduce a resolution in March to ensure free period products are available for years to come.
“When our young women and our young menstruators are not thinking about where their next tampon or pad is going to come from, we have more time to focus on our school work,” Soch said.
She added that period poverty is real in the U.S., noting that the change at DPS schools is a reminder for her that another teen won’t feel the shame she once felt.
“All I could think about was every single girl who would never have to go to the nurse's office again,” Soch said.
She said she hopes DPS can pave the way for other schools in Colorado to follow and provide free women's hygiene products.