Maryland menstrual equity bill gets hearing in Annapolis

A bill that would require public schools to provide free menstrual products in school bathrooms in Maryland got a hearing before lawmakers in Annapolis.

Witnesses told the House Ways and Means Committee that the bill would mean that students would not have to go to the school nurse to get a tampon or sanitary pad, which is how most schools currently provide these products.

Under the provisions in HB 208, schools would be required to supply the products in at least two bathrooms in each school by Oct. 1 and in all school bathrooms by August 2024.

Too often students have to depend on an understanding teacher to let them out of class to get a tampon or a sanitary pad from the school nurse, supporters of the bill said. When they get their periods unexpectedly, any delay could lead to embarrassment.

Other speakers, including students from Centennial High School in Howard County, pointed out that students are not made to ask for toilet paper, and access to free menstrual products should not be treated differently.

Sam Potter, student body president at North Bethesda Middle School, said he was testifying in favor of the bill.

“I decided that my school couldn’t wait. So we’re launching a project to provide menstrual products in our school with donations from our parents,” Potter said.

Potter has heard from several students since his school started the effort.

“Students have a lot of stress and having easy access to menstrual products can remove a lot of anxiety,” he said.

As for the cost to have these products in bathrooms, Potter told lawmakers, “You’re getting ready to spend billions on improving schools. The costs of this bill are small, yet its benefits would be huge.”

One of the bill’s 52 sponsors is Democratic Del. Kirill Reznik, who represents Montgomery County. He told committee members that New Hampshire, California, New York, Georgia and Illinois have already passed similar legislation. And just last week, the Virginia Senate unanimously passed a version of the proposal.

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