Hamilton’s public school board looking to address ‘period poverty’ with free pads, tampons in bathrooms

The Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board hopes to provide free menstrual products to students in future.
The Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board hopes to provide free menstrual products to students in future. Don Mitchell / Global News Radio

The day may be coming when free menstrual products are made available for female students in the bathrooms of Hamilton’s public schools.

Sharon Stephanian, the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board’s superintendent of equity and well-being, says discussions with the city and community partners are in the early stages, but the goal is to present a staff report to trustees by early 2020.

READ MORE: Hamilton moves to provide menstrual products to low-income residents

As it stands now, access is provided on a school-by-school basis, generally through the administration or a guidance counsellor.

Stephanian stresses the school board needs to find a way to make access “more inclusive” and to ensure menstrual products are available to students “where and when they need it” and in a way that maintains “the dignity of our young people.”

She adds that, currently, access to menstrual products can be a “barrier” that gets in the way of a successful education.

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READ MORE: Hamilton councillor motions for free pads and tampons for low-income residents

In developing recommendations for trustees to consider, Stephanian says her team will be looking at boards that have already moved forward on the issue to determine “what policies they have in place and how they’re working with their community partners.”

The discussions come four months after the City of Hamilton’s board of health rejected a motion by Ward 1 Coun. Maureen Wilson to offer free menstrual products, such as pads and tampons, in bathrooms in some municipal buildings.

READ MORE: Census data shows strong income growth in Hamilton, but poverty remains a challenge

Less than two weeks later, city council approved a different motion for a pilot project that would offer free menstrual products, specifically to people with financial need.

That has led to discussions with the school board at a time when the Social Planning and Research Council (SPRC) says one in five Hamilton children is living in poverty.

READ MORE: TDSB to provide menstrual products for free to all students

A SPRC report says that figure rises to 34 per cent across the city’s five lower city wards.

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