School District 72 has taken steps to align with a B.C. Ministry of Education ministerial order to provide free menstrual products for students in school washrooms.
At the first school board meeting of the 2019/2020 school year, Superintendent Jeremy Morrow said the district ordered the machines a few months ago.
“We, School District 72, are supportive of the ministry initiative to have free and accessible menstrual products available at all of our schools,” he said. “Dispensers were ordered in June and they will be fully operational at each school in our district before the end of December this year.”
District School Principal Philip Cizmic said they were hoping the dispensers would be installed over the summer, but with every school board in the province ordering machines at the same time, Campbell River’s dispensers are on backorder.
Elementary schools will have one dispenser each offering pads, while middle and high schools will see three dispensers in each school offering both pads and tampons.
With it being the pilot year for the initiative, Cizmic said the dispensers will be in just female washrooms to start.
“As we get feedback from students and parents, we’ll have the ability to add more or move them as it necessitates.”
While the washroom dispensers are a new initiative, there will continue to be products available through the office or councilling department, said Cizmic.
“Anything that eliminates barriers to students coming to school or fulfilling their education we support,” he said. “This is one of those initiatives. We’re just eager to support it.”
The ministerial order was issued in early April this year. It says that the products must be “free of charge, protect privacy, (be) barrier free and easily accessible, (be) consistent in delivery and available, (be) non-stigmatizing.”
A 2018 survey found that one in seven Canadian girls have either left school early or missed school entirely because they didn’t have access to feminine care products.
“Students should never have to miss school, extracurricular, sports or social acitivies because they can’t afford or don’t have access to menstrual products,” Education Minister Rob Fleming said at the ministry announcement in April.
Andrea Sinclair, president of the B.C. Confederaton of Parent Advisory Councils said the inititative is an important step in reducing the stigma.
“This is a long-standing ‘hidden and unspoken’ problem for students who need menstrual products. There continues to be stigma surrounding this, which causes unnecessary anxiety and reduced confidence for sutdents, including reduced attendance,” she said. “We need to remove the barriers to access, eliminate the stigma and normalize the conversation for student well-being. We are encourage by this action and fully support it.”
The ministry has given B.C. public schools until the end of this year to get their initiatives underway. Cizmic expects Campbell River’s dispensers to be up and running “well before the December deadline.”