N.S. teachers concerned new menstrual product announcement doesn’t include clear funding picture

Click to play video: 'Teachers question how the N.S free menstrual product announcement will be' Teachers question how the N.S free menstrual product announcement will be
WATCH: While the provincial announcement mandating menstrual products be made available in all public schools across the province has been received by many with open arms – questions are being asked about where the funds will come from. Alexa MacLean reports. – Sep 25, 2019

Teachers are often first in line when it comes to addressing the needs of their students – whether it’s providing snacks to a diabetic child experiencing low blood sugar, or keeping menstrual products on hand for young women in a bind.

“I’ve always had some stuff [menstrual products] in my classroom but I also stock band aids and stuff like that too just because it’s way faster to just provide what the kid needs so they can get back to learning,” Melanie Kennedy said, a high school drama teacher at Auburn Drive High School.
Some teachers in Nova Scotia are raising questions over where the funds for a new provincial government initiative to provide free menstrual products will come from. Alexa MacLean/Global Halifax

Kennedy says having menstrual products available and accessible to students just comes with the territory – she points to the school’s front office and teen health centre as also carrying tampons and pads to ensure students don’t go without.

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The present accessibility of menstrual products in schools is why Kennedy says she has some concerns about the recent provincial government announcement ordering all public schools – Grade 4 and up – to distribute the products across the province.

READ MORE: Nova Scotia schools to offer free menstrual products

“I was really, really heartened to hear the announcement but it did come with some concerns for me because there was no funding attached to that announcement,” Kennedy said.

Nova Scotia is second behind British Columbia to order all public schools carry menstrual products and make them accessible to students.

However, when the education ministry of B.C. made the announcement this past April – it came with $300,000 in funding and a commitment to work with school districts to ensure the funding was adequate enough to meet the new menstrual product requirements.

WATCH: Free menstrual products now available in B.C. public schools

“I’m concerned if it’s coming out of existing school budgets, that something is going to have to go, because I’ve had experience in the office as an administrator and I know there’s not a lot of extra, there’s none, there’s no extra at the end of the year,” Kennedy said.

According to the Liberal government press release, “each school will display a poster directing students on where to find feminine hygiene products when they need them.” Schools will also be in charge of deciding how and when the products will be made available.

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As for concerns that the funding will mean other areas may get cut, Premier Stephen McNeil is assuring teachers that won’t happen because the existing budget has enough space to take on this new initiative.

READ MORE: Menstrual cups are just as safe as tampons — here’s how they work

“This has nothing to do with teacher’s classrooms. This has to do with a separate budget that deals with the toiletries associated with our physical schools,” McNeil told reporters at an event in Dartmouth on Tuesday.

As for whether or not additional funds may be required – McNeil says it’s not something teachers have to worry about.

“If required we will put new money in. What we know in many cases, that particular budget, there’s lots of room from our regulators that allows us to spend that money has already been budgeted for,” he said.

Kennedy hopes that is the case.

“It would be really awful if a service we were offering to kids had to be cut in order to pay for this service which we’re now being told that we have to provide,” she said.

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