State mandated menstruation products requirement arrives with implementation challenges

Students talked about the problems faced by girls because of the lack of adequate access to menstrual products.


California has mandated that period be available to students on campus.

Kay Stout, Cordova High School

Amid a national discussion about whether federal law requires schools to provide adequate access to menstrual products, Cordova High School students’ experience highlights potential problems with implementation of a new California statute that mandates improved access.

AB 367, a state law enacted in 2021, requires all California public schools that maintain classes in grades 6-12 to provide free menstrual products in all women’s restrooms, every all-gender restroom and at least one men’s restroom. Under the “Menstrual Equity for All Act,” the supply must be adequate and available “at all times.”

Schools also must post a notice about the requirement in the restrooms. The notice must include the text of the law’s provision that establishes the mandate, and the email address and phone number of the person responsible for maintaining the supply. AB 367’s requirements took effect starting with the 2022-2023 school year.

Members of the Cordova High’s Feminist Club, while not alleging a violation of AB 367, said the school’s only reliable sources of period products are locker rooms and the school nurse. They say that provides girls inadequate access.

“We’d love to see more accessibility to period products,” sophomore Zoe Lobbestael said. “We’ll talk about it at the next club meeting . . .” 

Sophomore Alie Rohrer added, “The Feminist Club intends to continue to push the philosophy that schools should be a place where students do not have to worry about if they can afford products that are necessities to our bodies.”

Folsom Cordova Unified School District Superintendent Sarah Koligan, in a Feb. 6 email, said, “Our custodial team is aware of the requirement and has been stocking and refilling the dispensers in the restrooms at Cordova High School. I am told by Principal (Jerad) Hyden that all the female restrooms at CHS currently have these dispensers installed, with a single male restroom available in the gym as well. In addition, the School Nurse has direct access and connects with any student in need to provide support.

“All dispensers are checked each night during the custodial shifts and replaced as needed. The Head Custodian ensures that CHS has adequate stock and regularly connects with (the) district to advise when more supply is needed.”

But students said restroom dispensers often aren’t stocked, or they’re broken or vandalized. In addition, the required notices are not posted in the restrooms.

Students talked about the problems faced by girls because of the lack of adequate access to menstrual products.

“Having period products in the girls’ restroom is a must,” said sophomore Tapasya Shestha. “Not every girl knows when they are going to get their period and might not be prepared.  (Even though) they could always go to the nurse, the trip (will) be time consuming and wouldn’t be the best option.”

Oftentimes, when there are products on campus, it is hugely inconvenient, students said.

“Personally, I’ve been in a lot of situations where I’ve had to call one of my parents to pick me up so I can change,” said sophomore Shae Griffith. “I’ve also been approached by people who needed products, or heard some of my friends tell me they just had to use toilet paper. The only place you can really access these products are in the locker rooms, which wouldn’t be helpful to anyone without PE. They’re also typically very thin, making them worthless to anyone with a heavier flow.”

Furthermore, students said, if a girl feels her period coming on, she can’t always leave class to get the products she needs.

“I know some teachers won’t let you use the bathroom and when they do I’m not sure where you’d get the products,” said Griffith. “I do however feel that I had easier access to pads or tampons in elementary school rather than high school.”

In passing AB 367, the California Legislature came down firmly on the side of increased access to menstrual products in schools. It its findings and declarations about why the law is needed, the bill states:

  • “The provision of menstrual products in schools helps ensure California provides equal access to education,” a right guaranteed by the state Constitution.
  • Students without adequate access to menstrual products “experience higher rates of absenteeism and are less able to focus and engage in the classroom. Absenteeism can lead to significant performance gaps and is linked to social disengagement, feelings of alienation, and adverse outcomes even into adulthood.
  • “Inadequate menstrual support is associated with both health and psychosocial issues, particularly among low-income people. A lack of access to menstrual products can cause emotional distress, physical infection, and disease.”

Nationally, the menstrual product debate has centered on a federal law, Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination in schools that receive federal funds. The law states “no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

The Folsom Cordova Unified Schools District has policies which require compliance with Title IX, and establish procedures for filing complaints that allege violations. The district’s regulation on nondiscrimination and harassment references the district’s goal to “provide a safe, nondiscriminatory school environment for all students, including transgender and gender-nonconforming students.” (Non-discrimination policy).

Critics say the U.S. Department of Education has been lax in using Title IX to ensure schools provide adequate access to period products. (How the Department of Education is Failing Student Menstruators)

A main argument is that people who menstruate and have poor access to period products lose valuable instructional time. As a result, say critics, such students are being denied educational opportunities on the basis of sex, which is a violation of Title IX. 

Recent years have seen efforts around the country to address the issue.

According to How the Department of Education is Failing Student Menstruators:

  • New York City passed legislation mandating that menstrual hygiene products be provided in all public school systems.
  • Multiple colleges in the University of Texas system started providing free menstrual hygiene products in single-stall and women’s restrooms.
  • Dublin City, Ohio, provided free tampons and pads in elementary and middle schools.
  • Brown University started providing free pads and tampons in all restrooms, claiming that menstrual hygiene products are as much of a necessity as toilet paper.

The bottom line, said Lobbestael, is that all schools, including Cordova High, have a responsibility to provide adequate access to menstrual products.

“My stance is that part of school funding should be providing period products to all students who need them. If that means having them in both girls and boys bathrooms then have (period products) in all bathrooms.”