By: Kymberly Brooks
The hands crept across the clock. With each passing minute, her heart filled with desperation. Her hand shot up, begging to go to the bathroom as her teacher’s monotonous voice came to a stop. Speed walking down the hall, time was everything. When she got to the bathroom, she discovered what she feared had been true. Her period came a few days early, and she was not at all prepared. She wadded up some toilet paper and packed it in her underwear, and took off to the nurse’s office, which was, of course, on the other side of the school. When she arrived at her destination, the nurse gave her a single tampon and no others because of the number of female students who were in that exact position and in need of the same products. The student spent the rest of her day counting down the hours until she could go home and escape the chance of bleeding through her outfit.
This situation is not an uncommon one in public schools around the world. After years of LCPS female students going through the trauma of being left without accessible menstrual products, a solution has finally come to light.
Pad and tampon dispensers were installed in every Loudoun County Public middle and high schools’ girls’ restrooms. Park View students responded to the new menstrual product dispensers with an overwhelming amount of positivity and support.
“I think they’re great! You don’t have to go to the nurse’s office anymore,” Anusha Nur, a junior at PVHS, exclaimed.
Prior to the machines’ installation, the nurse’s office was flooded with female students desperately seeking menstrual products.
“Before the dispensers, about 6 to 8 students daily would come for feminine products,” Ms. Merola, the Park View school Nurse, explained.
The dispensers were added to all of the middle and high schools in the county as part of an equity initiative for LCPS students.
“The feminine hygiene dispensers were identified as an initiative last winter (Jan/Feb 2019) and a pilot study was initiated in Mar 2019 with 100% rollout over the summer to every secondary school,” Edward Treanor, Director of Facilities Services of Loudoun County Public Schools, answered.
According to Treanor, the 299 dispensers across the middle and high schools in the county cost $129,120. The annual price to maintain the machines is an estimated $30,000.
With fair reason, most male members of the PVHS community are unaware of the new advancement in the girls’ restrooms. Despite this, they agree the dispensers are a positive change to the school.
“It’s good that the school is supplying them because it’s something every female student needs to deal with. It helps take the cost off some of the students that can’t afford them,” answered Matthew Chesnutt, the SCA President at Park View.
Although there were a handful of complaints on the poor quality of the products, most students were just glad they are accessible. They may not be name brand, but at least they’re something.
“The quality is not that great but I get it because at least they’re there and free,” a PVHS junior responded when asked about the quality of the new menstrual products.
Despite the quality, the products will work in a pinch, which is all they’re meant to do. Rather than supplying girls with these products regularly, the dispensers should be thought of as an emergency source.
“The feminine hygiene products dispensed by LCPS are not intended to be the primary source of these supplies for students, but rather a free backup supply when needed while a student is at school,” explained Treanor.