HDSB to provide free menstrual products in schools by September

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By: Kate McCullough, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator
Halton’s public school board will offer free menstrual products in its schools by September 2021.
The program aims “to address some of the gaps in access to menstrual products to promote awareness and alleviate the stigma of menstruation,” reads an April 8 release from the Halton District School Board.
“Access and availability of menstrual products in schools impacts the dignity and self-esteem of menstruating students and can impact class attendance and student achievement,” Jewel Amoah, a human rights and equity adviser with the board, said in the release. “Free access to menstrual products supports both gender and economic equity as well as to raise awareness of, and destigmatize, the natural biological process of menstruation.”
The board piloted the program in four schools — White Oaks Secondary School, Dr. Frank J. Hayden Secondary School, Craig Kielburger Secondary School and Georgetown District High School — in the fall of 2020.
In Hamilton, 10 public schools received pads and tampons in February 2020 as part of a pilot project launched jointly by the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) and the United Way of Halton and Hamilton.
Two high schools and eight elementary schools in the city received a one-time donation of tampons, pads and liner products donated to the United Way the previous year.
High schools that received supplies include Bernie Custis and Sir Winston Churchill. Elementary schools that received supplies include Cathy Wever, Hess Street, Memorial City, Adelaide Hoodless, Prince of Wales, Queen Mary, Queen Victoria and Bennetto.
In September 2019, then-board chair Alex Johnstone told The Spectator staff were in the early stages of talks with the city and community partners to make menstrual products available for free at school.
HWDSB spokesperson Shawn McKillop said the initiative has been delayed amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We do look forward to continuing to explore this work, finding ways to align it with our equity and public health teams’ objectives, and researching how we can make this sustainable with support from our community partners,” he said. “This is an important issue in our community, and we are always looking for ways to increase student well-being and remove barriers to learning.”
At the Catholic board, menstrual products are available at all secondary schools for emergency and ongoing needs.