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