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Access to menstrual products in schools would be required under bill

The restrooms of Minnesota’s public schools provide students with toilet paper and paper towels. So why not tampons and pads?

That’s what Rep. Sandra Feist (DFL-New Brighton) wants to know, and why she is sponsoring HF2750 that would require school districts and charter schools to provide students in grades four through 12 with access to free menstrual products in student restrooms.

“This is a case where the students have told us what they need, and we should listen,” Feist told the House Education Policy Committee Monday. “One of every 10 students loses class time due to lack of access to period products. It also has correlations to depression and anxiety.”

The bill would increase total operating revenue by $2 per adjusted pupil unit to cover the cost of the necessary equipment and supplies. It would also adjust the general education aid appropriation for fiscal year 2023 to include the increase in total operating revenue.

The committee approved the bill, as amended, by a 12-4 vote, with two members abstaining until a fiscal note is produced. Its next stop is the House Education Finance Committee.

The companion, SF3052, is sponsored by Sen. Steve Cwodzinski (DFL-Eden Prairie). It awaits action by the Senate Education Finance and Policy Committee.

Elif Ozturk, a sophomore at Hopkins High School, said “period poverty” is an issue she’s encountered among classmates.

“In eighth grade, I had friends who didn’t only forget their products, but couldn’t afford them in the first place,” she said. “Friends who decided to skip school during that time because a 14-year-old girl can’t always handle the stress of doing geometry while blood is leaking onto her chair. … How do we expect our girls to carry this burden on them throughout the school day and still perform well? My No. 1 priority should be to learn, not to find a pad. … This is a low-cost effort that would help so many lives.”

But cost was an issue raised by a few committee members. It’s estimated the bill would affect 950,000 students at a cost of $2 per student, so about $1.9 million.

Rep. Peggy Bennett (R-Albert Lea) suggested that this could be handled by local school boards and not the Legislature, but Thomas Stinson, a licensed school nurse at St. Paul’s Harding High School, disagreed.

“We can’t expect individual schools to provide period products, because they will not,” he said. “We need to have legislative support.”

Some students have successfully lobbied to make period products available, with Eagan High School senior Evelyn Gore describing a program implemented throughout her district. But most testifiers agreed that it should be dealt with on a statewide basis.

“This impacts half of the students in our schools today across the state,” Feist said. “If we mandate and pay for it with state dollars, we’re telling those students that they aren’t an afterthought.”

Opiate antagonist bill advances, epinephrine bill laid over

The committee also approved a bill 17-1 that would require schools to maintain a supply of opiate antagonists to counteract overdoses. Sponsored by Rep. Kelly Morrison (DFL-Deephaven), HF1883 was referred to the House Education Finance Committee.

And Rep. Duane Quam (R-Byron) is the sponsor of HF224, which would require schools to maintain a supply of epinephrine auto-injectors, or “epi pens.” The bill was laid over for possible omnibus bill inclusion.

The Senate companions of those two bills are, respectively, the Cwodzinski-sponsored SF1748, and SF308, sponsored by Sen. David Senjem (R-Rochester). Both await action by the Senate Education Finance and Policy Committee.

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