Free access to female reproductive sanitation products

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We are a group of high school seniors from New Trier High School in Winnetka, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. While researching public policy for a project in our AP Government and Politics class, we discovered that many women who live in poverty cannot afford tampons or pads and find themselves in a difficult situation. In 40 states, tampons and pads are taxed as a luxury item, which places an increased financial burden on many women.

Currently, only three states, New York, Illinois, and California, require that schools provide free access to these feminine products. Many teenage women are likely to find themselves in need of these products during the school day, including low-income students who would not be able to afford them. Public schools provide almost all of the hygiene products students might need during the school day, including tissues, toilet paper, and paper towels. We therefore believe that public schools ought to provide free access to tampons and pads because not only would it save many girls and women from difficult situations during the school day, but young women should not be forced to pay for a bodily function they cannot control when sanitary products for other bodily functions are provided free of charge.

Public schools should provide these products for women, and the Department of Education has the ability to take the critical first step. By offering categorical grants to the state-level education departments under the condition that they provide feminine hygiene products, the Department of Education can leverage their funding power to ensure young women have access to these necessary products.