Currently, menstrual products at FVHS are only available in the health office. (Photo by Andrew Hsieh)

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Fountain Valley awaits free menstrual product dispensers

Free menstrual product dispensers in Fountain Valley High School have not yet been installed, but steps are in the works to ensure they are built in all restrooms to increase accessibility.
<a href="https://highschool.latimes.com/author/reesemeister/" target="_self">Reese Meister</a>

Reese Meister

January 18, 2023
Fountain Valley High School (FVHS) has not yet installed free menstrual product dispensers, despite the requirements of both Assembly Bill 367 (AB 367) from October 2021 and as a Title I school.

 

AB 367 became effective in July 2022, requiring that all public schools in California provide free menstrual products for students between sixth and twelfth grade. The schools must place the products in every women’s and gender-neutral restroom, along with at least one men’s restroom.

 

With AB 367, public schools now receive the funds to provide the necessary products listed in the bill, unlike before the bill, when only certain schools qualified to receive reimbursement for menstrual products. Even without AB 367, FVHS would need to provide free menstrual products as a Title I school.

However, FVHS principal, Paul Lopez, mentioned how supply chain issues have hindered the implementation of the dispensers.

“I have to find out exactly where we’re at in the process — if we have the dispensers, if we don’t have the dispensers, where’s the product?” Lopez said. “Because all that was supposed to come from the district at one point.”

Junior Riley Bridges expressed her support for this introduction of free menstrual products to FVHS restrooms, comparing it to having access to toilet paper.

“There [are] times where, after swim practice or during class, I definitely need a pad or tampon and it’s not accessible because I’m out or the girl sitting next to me doesn’t have any and it’s very inconvenient,” Bridges said. “If I was to go to the bathroom and see that there were accessible pads or tampons, it would be a lifesaver.”

Lopez understands the timeliness of this issue and is working to increase the progress of the project. Last year, two FVHS students, Emily and Evelyn Tran, were working to implement the requirements of AB 367 during the 2021-2022 school year, but the school never followed through with their plans.

“Last time I checked, and that was a few months ago, we didn’t even have the dispensers ready to go,” Lopez said. “I’m trying to contact the district…of meetings and operations to see where we were with that process.”

According to Lopez, a plan to install the dispensers already exists, but the school lacks the supplies. He recalls that the restrooms did not have menstrual product dispensers when he began working at FVHS at the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year. They had existed previously, but students had to pay to take a product.

“Previous to when I got here, I guess [somebody] had taken the dispensers out… I don’t know if they were planning to put new ones in or what to do,” Lopez said. “What I was told is that there were dispensers here, [but] during COVID, they were [taken] out.”

Currently, free menstrual products are only available in the health office, so placing them in restrooms will make them much more attainable for students. Lopez also considered the needs of every student when thinking about the project.

“The other thing we need to think about is…do we put [the dispensers] in all restrooms because of gender identity?” Lopez said. “We may need them in all bathrooms — if we’re doing it the right way. But so far we haven’t done it right. We don’t even have them up, and that’s bad on our part.”

Bridges noted how accessibility relates to the high expenses of menstrual products as well.

“A lot of girls spend more money in stores on tampons and pads that are disposable,” Bridges said. “Having them in the bathroom will save everybody money and time.”

Lopez expressed his regret that FVHS has not yet installed the menstrual product dispensers and hopes to direct more attention to the project.

“I feel bad that we don’t have the dispensers and the menstrual products ready to go,” Lopez said. “I’ll make sure we get the details and [start] making it happen…it’s something that I have to really help track and make sure that we’re following through on all that.”