Menstruation product basket provided by Soph (Photo: Phoebe Ramnarine, The Puma Prensa)
By Phoebe Ramnarine, staff writer
High school marks the official start of teenage lives and whether they’d like to accept it or not, with it comes periods. Society has taught menstruators to be ashamed of it, and many of them have formulated a discrete way to get their period products from their backpack to their sleeves or pockets in a desperate attempt to grab them without others noticing. With this, it’s safe to say that menstruation products play a big part in high schoolers’ lives. Even though menstruation products play an important role, high school students do not have immediate access to them in the bathrooms. I believe that students should have immediate access to these necessary products because they are essential to menstruators.
One student saw the need for menstruation products in the bathrooms and took action. Soph Arnold, a Carrillo junior. Arnold’s main reason to start this project was her own understanding of the necessity of menstruation products. “I had the means to be able to provide for some people that were not able to and I just think it’s something that should be easily accessible and I know what it’s like to forget and then you’re kinda screwed,” Arnold said. She started this project with a large amount of planning and for her, the details were crucial, specifically the basket size. When it came to providing the products that went into the baskets she was fortunate enough to have some stockpiled products left over. However, she “ran out of that pretty quickly.” Soph then had to start buying them. She graciously used the money she got from her Etsy to buy menstruation products. Arnold ended up buying three baskets, $27 each and buying about $15 per month on menstruation products resulting in them spending over $200 on this project. Arnold started this project last school year and has continued it into this school year. Further, she continues to plan on restocking the baskets every Friday. “If I start it in the middle of a class and don’t realize, my options are going back to class and getting products and hoping that my teacher lets me go back to the bathroom, or asking random people who don’t have anything with them either, so Soph’s products give me a good alternative to that.” A student who preferred to stay anonymous because of the personal nature of the subject stated how having menstruation products in the bathrooms saved them the stress of having to find a pad or a tampon.
Principal Monique Luke seemed somewhat unaware that a student, Arnold, was providing menstruation products in the bathroom. Later in our interview, when asked if she intended to repair the broken dispensers in the women’s bathroom, Luke responded, “So whenever dispensers are broken we do fix them. It’s just sometimes they get broken faster than we can get to them, to fix them. The school intends that everything in the restroom should be working. But unfortunately, there are those that go in and vandalize.”
In contrast, as long as I have been at Maria Carrillo High School those dispensers have been broken. “The rate at which things were getting destroyed in the restrooms was unbelievable. As soon as the custodian would take down some graffiti or repair a door or a soap dispenser, even by the end of the day it was vandalized or at least by the next day,” said Luke. Luke reflected on the damage that seemed somewhat regular in the bathrooms last year and explained her hesitance to start the repair process of the dispensers in the bathroom.
On the topic of providing these products in the bathrooms specifically in both the women’s and men’s bathrooms, Luke came to the conclusion she was in support of this change; however, these aspirations would come with complications. “I am in support of it. My concern is regulating and monitoring because with 1,600 students that are going in and out of all the bathrooms I would just be concerned about vandalism or taking a whole handful.” The concerns voiced in this quote are valid and realistic considering the behaviors some high schoolers would have towards this idea, however, these concerns should not take away this necessary access for menstruators.
In terms of financial details, the menstruation products that the school receives from the district office are free. Luke’s reasoning for not wanting to put these menstruation products in the bathroom was the same as her reasoning throughout, vandalism. “People have access to them. They would just have to come to the health office just like they would for a nosebleed or you know if they’re not feeling well.” Luke compares menstruation to a simple nosebleed, which as many menstruators know is not the case. Menstruation products not being provided in the bathrooms means that students will have to leave their class for a more extended amount of time to go to the office and wait for a menstruation product to be provided, then walk to the bathroom to apply it, in turn disrupting their education instead of them being able to simply get their pad or tampon in the bathroom and then go back to class. Luke also seems to not agree with alternatives for dispensers, and she offered a hypothetical and an argument. “From what I’ve seen there’s baskets for them in there. Well it’s not cost-effective anyway if you just put them in a bathroom, an open public bathroom and it’s being consistently vandalized and we can’t put cameras in there. There could very well end being a shortage of them if we didn’t regulate and monitor in this way.” Luke commits to the argument that providing menstruation products in the bathrooms is a slippery slope. She argues this with the constant vandalization of the bathrooms that occurred last year. Luke mentioned a solution in the student providing menstruation products out of her own pocket as a solution to the school not providing menstruation products in the bathrooms. I worry the finances of the school are taken into account more than the struggles that students go through daily that they cannot control.
It seems as though menstruation products will not be available in the bathrooms unless students put them in there using their own money. I disagree with the school’s wallet being put over the needs of the students. I do not think that vandalism is a valid argument against putting menstruation products in the bathrooms. Although vandalism is inevitable, the good that having menstruation products in the bathroom will do for students outweighs the negative hypotheticals. I personally will keep working towards having the school provide menstruation products in the bathrooms.