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Students from across Minnesota urge lawmakers to mandate menstrual products in schools

If you walk into a bathroom at any school in Minnesota, you’re sure to find the standard hygiene equipment — hand soap, paper towels, toilet paper. If HF44 were to become law, you could add another item to that list: menstrual products.

Rep. Sandra Feist (DFL-New Brighton), the bill sponsor, said this addition is long overdue.

“The impact of period poverty on students’ ability to really get a full education in Minnesota” is beyond dispute, she said. Data shows that 10% of menstruating youth miss school days because of a lack of access to menstrual products.

The bill would institute a statewide mandate — all school bathrooms serving students in grades 4-12 must be furnished with menstrual products. The state would foot the bill for providing these supplies.

Heard Wednesday by the House Education Finance Committee, this was the second committee stop for the bill. Since a fiscal note was not proffered in time for the hearing, the bill was laid over for future consideration.

Proponents of the measure frame the issue in terms of equity: an inability to afford menstrual products should not stand as a barrier to a student attending school.

Notably, the hearing featured multiple student testifiers who relayed personal stories of how the lack of access to menstrual products has affected them and their peers.

Elif Ozturk, a junior at Hopkins High School, spoke of her discovery that many classmates struggled with accessing menstrual products and how this impeded their ability to learn.

“I could no longer be complacent with this injustice,” she said, motivating her to contact Feist about the issue, which spurred action and a collaboration on the proposed legislation.

Rep. Ron Kresha (R-Little Falls) indicated his support for the bill’s premise and his willingness for the state to supply funding.

“The biological dignity of this we agree on,” he said. However, he opposes the mandate, believing the bill signals that the Legislature does not trust local school districts to do the right thing and tackle this issue themselves.

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