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Empowering change: New Jersey schools step up to tackle ‘period poverty’

Imagine the weight lifted off students’ shoulders as they no longer worry about accessing essential menstrual products in New Jersey schools. This relief stems from a recent groundbreaking law signed by Governor Phil Murphy. The law requires schools statewide to provide free menstrual products to students in grades six through twelve, transcending beyond mere pads and tampons – it’s about dismantling financial barriers and paving the way for every student to shine.

Known as Senate Bill S-1221/A-1349, this legislation marks a game-changing moment. It’s a resounding proclamation that affordable menstrual products are fundamental to students’ well-being. Introduced this year, the bill swiftly earned favor among state legislators, signifying a significant step towards ensuring equal access to menstrual products.

The term ‘period poverty,’ which reflects the struggle to afford menstrual products, disproportionately affects marginalized students. Astoundingly, a 2021 study revealed that nearly one in four teenagers across the United States grapple with accessing these products. This often forces them to make do with inadequate substitutes or overuse products, jeopardizing their health and education.

The schools, from grades six to twelve, will be required by law to provide menstrual products in at least 50% of restrooms designated for female and gender-neutral use. The state will bear the costs associated with this provision alleviating burdens on schools and allowing them to prioritize the needs of their students.

Governor Murphy emphasized the importance of addressing not only the health but also the emotional well-being of students. He highlighted that a lack of access to products can lead to stress distractions from studies and even school absenteeism. By establishing equity in our schools we take a step towards supporting young people throughout the state and promoting fairness.

However, the impact doesn’t stop there. The law also establishes a framework for evaluating how effective the program is. The New Jersey Departments of Education and Health will collaborate to assess whether providing products truly meets student’s needs. If necessary they may propose expanding the program to include grade levels.

This progressive move places New Jersey among an increasing number of states that recognize the potential of achieving equity. Offering products is not just about convenience; it’s, about dismantling barriers improving attendance rates boosting academic achievements, and fostering an inclusive and healthier educational environment.


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