(Photo courtesy of Brandon Jaiyen)

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Fountain Valley sisters fight for menstrual equality

Gov. Gavin Newsom approved Assembly Bill 367 on Oct. 8 following its passage in the California legislative branch. The bill, which will go into effect in July of 2022, will require all Californian public schools grades six through 12 — regardless of family income levels — to provide free menstrual hygiene products for its students.…
<a href="https://highschool.latimes.com/author/cemeister100studenthbuhsdedu/" target="_self">Cate Meister</a>

Cate Meister

December 20, 2021

Gov. Gavin Newsom approved Assembly Bill 367 on Oct. 8 following its passage in the California legislative branch. The bill, which will go into effect in July of 2022, will require all Californian public schools grades six through 12 — regardless of family income levels — to provide free menstrual hygiene products for its students.

But seniors (and sisters) Emily and Evelyn Tran have advocated for menstrual equality at Fountain Valley High School years prior to AB 367.

Before the passage of AB 367, the Trans worked with 27 schools across four districts, especially Title I schools, to ensure that administrators understood the necessity of tampons and pads for their students.

“A lot of them were concerned with budget issues, but I … [explained] to them that [supplying students with free menstrual products is] reimbursed by the government by proposition 98,” Emily Tran said. “I was providing them [with] research and explaining to them that … this is a basic necessity. A lot of people kind of just overlook the significance of menstrual equity.”

For the past year and a half, the sisters have also encouraged schools that are unqualified for state reimbursement to provide their students with these products as well. Now, under AB 367, all public schools will receive state funding to pay for the provisions that the bill requires.

The state’s previous bill on menstrual products in schools required schools that met the 40% poverty threshold to stock at least half of its women’s restrooms with free tampons and pads. AB 367, however, requires all schools to stock all women’s restrooms and gender neutral restrooms with period products and at least one men’s restroom, taking into account the needs of transgender and non-binary students in doing so.

The bill is an obvious step forward for advocates of menstrual equality since public school students will no longer have to pay for these products while at school. But the fight against “period poverty,” or a lack of access to menstrual hygiene products, persists.

The Trans’ advocacy for menstrual equity continues even with AB 367’s implementation approaching next school year. They’ve partnered with Assemblywoman Christina Garcia, who authored AB 367, to draft a bill that would provide menstrual products to incarcerated and homeless people via correctional facilities and homeless shelters, respectively. Additionally, they’re looking to implement free dispensers of tampons and pads at Fountain Valley High School this year, even before AB 367 comes into play.

Research shows that women, on average, spend over $6000 on menstrual products during a reproductive lifetime, which accounts for stained underwear and necessary medication as well. (Photo by Caroline Ngo)

Emily Tran said she contacted both FVHS Principal Paul Lopez and the Huntington Beach Union High School District Superintendent Clint Harwick over the summer in an effort to kickstart a free menstrual product program within her own district.

“When school started, I came to talk to principal Lopez and together we worked with maintenance to help
plan when to implement AB 367,” Emily Tran said.

According to Emily Tran, FVHS is hoping to implement the changes this school year. While she is uncertain as to when exactly these changes will occur, she hopes that dispensers could be installed as early as December.

“We are working to get the dispensers put into the restrooms and then fill them with menstrual products.  I am hoping to get it done before the girls graduate this year,” Lopez said.

Going forward, the Emily and Evelyn Tran plan to continue their work, which Emily described as a passion project.

“It’s a basic hygiene necessity,” Emily Tran said. “So for me…they should be as available as soap and napkins.”

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