Female students returning to school will have menstrual products available for free after Gov. Phil Murphy signed into law a bill last week.
Recognizing that access to affordable menstrual products is key to the health and participation of New Jersey students, Murphy signed S-1221/A-1349 on Aug. 23 that requiring school districts to provide menstrual products free of charge in every public school teaching students in one or more of grades six through twelve.
“When students can’t access the menstrual products they need for their reproductive health, the potential stress and stigma too often distracts them from their classes or forces them to skip school entirely – leading to social and academic repercussions that no one should have to face,” said Murphy.
Legislators pointed to a study from 2021 that found that nearly one in four teenagers struggle to afford menstrual products, especially students of color and those from low-income families. Access to menstrual hygiene products helps students focus on learning and prevents unnecessary infections that can cause chronic reproductive health challenges.
Under the new law, applicable schools will be required to provide menstrual products in at least half of all their female and gender-neutral bathrooms. Any costs incurred by a school district in supplying menstrual products to meet the needs of its students will be borne by the state.
“My administration will continue to prioritize the mental and physical health of New Jersey students by taking a holistic approach to supporting their well-being,” said Murphy. “Promoting menstrual equity in our schools is one crucial component of our ongoing efforts to ensure the success of young people throughout our state and promote equity at every level.”
Additionally, the legislation requires the New Jersey Departments of Education, in conjunction with the New Jersey Department of Health, to periodically assess whether the provision of these products is meeting the needs of menstruating students. If deemed necessary, the department can then issue a recommendation regarding the expansion of access to free menstrual products in grades below grade six.
This legislation builds upon the Murphy Administration’s other efforts to promote menstrual health in New Jersey. In 2019, the administration required menstrual hygiene products to be provided free of charge to female inmates in the state correctional system and the Department of Health has created a website to provide residents with critical information about common menstrual health-related matters.
“Having supplies for periods or menstrual cycles in our public schools helps to reduce inequities by increasing access to necessary products that may not be readily available to everyone,” said Acting Health Commissioner Dr. Kaitlan Baston.
“This initiative will not only provide needed support to many school-aged kids with periods, it can also help normalize periods, help people overcome potential embarrassment or distress from not having what they need, and can support positive self-esteem.”
Among the sponsors were North Jersey lawmakers State Senate Majority Leader Teresa Ruiz (D-29) and Assemblywoman Angela McKnight (D-31).
“Menstrual hygiene products are a necessity, not a luxury,” said Ruiz. “When this becomes an obstacle and decisions are made to not attend school, the loss is greater than just the one day. It is about the stigma young girls face around this natural monthly occurrence.
“This new policy will help to address period poverty and the stigmas around menstruation head on.”
“Right now, there are students in our state and across the country who are missing school because they cannot afford menstrual hygiene products. It’s unacceptable and we must do more,” added McKnight. “I am proud to have sponsored this legislation that will put free menstrual products in our schools so all of our students, regardless of their family’s income level, will have access to the resources they need to thrive.”