Stocked and loaded

Junior investigates the lack of pads and tampons in Jones bathrooms

Charlotte Manier '20, Lifestyles Staff

Are these things ever stocked? I wondered, staring at the sad dispenser while standing in line for the restroom. Two rude buttons with the word “EMPTY” stuck out under “NAPKINS” and “TAMPONS,” as usual. I was grateful I remembered my own supply, knowing the tin centurion would’ve been no help had I forgotten. But these boxes were made for every menstruator at Jones, not just me. Students who can’t afford menstrual products are left with no option.

I knew this couldn’t be ethical or legal, and a quick search showed that Illinois legislature agreed with me. According to the Learn With Dignity Act, Illinois school districts are required to make quality pads and tampons available to students in school bathrooms at no cost. The only access Jones students had to free menstrual hygiene products was in the nurse’s office, and if they wanted one from a bathroom dispenser they had to insert a quarter.

This prompted me to reach out to administration. I explained to them what the Act stated and some ideas I had for making sure Jones was following it. Among the suggestions I included the idea of cost-free dispensers, which Principal P. Joseph Powers expressed an interest in installing. He also explained that menstrual hygiene products weren’t bought by Jones; Sodexo was contracted by CPS to supply schools with custodial services. Because Sodexo’s contract was with CPS and not Jones specifically, Powers wasn’t sure if Sodexo was supplying enough products to stock the school.

With this in mind, I decided to see just how well Jones was stocked. I walked around during Ac Lab asking people for spare quarters, and once I had about twenty I began my test. I began with all the bathrooms in the North Building, checking floors six, four, two, and one. I did the same in the South Building, starting with the seventh floor bathroom. About half the slots said “EMPTY.” The other half did not say empty, but took quarters without giving anything in return. This was the same in both buildings. However, this was at the end of the day, and there was a possibility that every dispenser had been emptied in the past five hours. With this in mind, I scraped together more quarters the next morning for another test, this time during second period. After 30 minutes of testing dispensers, I emerged with the same results I had received the previous day.

I let Powers know what I had discovered, and he agreed that it was disturbing. In less than a month, Jones installed new dispensers in the North Building. On them, “FREE” was written in bold letters.

By installing these dispensers, Jones is showing respect for their menstruating students, and providing products for students who may not be able to afford them. 39.5 percent of Jones students come from lower income families, and supplying free menstrual products allows these students to worry about one less expense. No one should have to pay for basic hygiene and comfort, especially when they’re trying to learn.

The problem now is making cost-free dispensers a norm in CPS bathrooms. While Jones has taken action on this issue individually, CPS remains stagnant. The percent of all CPS students who are lower income is nearly twice that of Jones: 78 percent. CPS is standing by idly while more than three fourths of their students worry about basic necessities.

This should not be a problem today. Title IX was passed 47 years ago. I should not hear my classmates’ exclamations of surprise when they receive what they need without hassle or payment. All CPS students are entitled to basic hygiene. Until CPS and every other public school district in the United States provides free, quality pads and tampons in their bathrooms, there should be no federal funding supplied to these institutions under Title IX. It is not selfish or extravagant to demand your needs be supplied for. If you are expected to keep up with your peers, you should expect your school to give you the resources to do so.