It may seem odd that I am writing an article on the topic of period hygiene. I have to admit I wouldn’t have anticipated it to rise to the top of my list of concerns but it has … and why, you ask? Because of two students from Port Huron, sisters Cassidy Middleton (Port Huron Northern HS & Blue Water Middle College) and Kenzie Middleton (Holland Woods MS). I recently read an article about their efforts to launch the Period Hygiene Network (PHN) with the goal of making period products accessible for anyone who needs them. It is awesome when students see a problem, look to solve it and advocate for others to join their cause.
There isn’t a woman alive who has not found herself in a predicament when it comes to a period hygiene emergency. Knowing this to be the case, why haven’t we eliminated this problem for our female students and potentially even staff members who encounter this issue? Do we want students to miss time out of class or even full days of school due to not having the feminine hygiene supplies they need? Isn’t this a problem we can help to solve relatively easily with the help of our greater school community? The answer is yes, this problem can be and should be solved. One may not realize what a significant and daily issue this is for female students in the school. As a teacher and administrator, students regularly asked me if I happened to have feminine hygiene supplies I could give them – it was a bonding moment, we would walk to my office and I’d reach into my own handbag or secret file drawer to give them what they needed … and extra supplies for a few more days. But how many students were too embarrassed to ask and why do they need to hunt down supplies?
Port Huron students, Cassidy and Kenzie Middleton, have created baskets which they place in middle and high school girls restrooms, they monitor and restock the baskets daily with donated supplies. The baskets include pads of all sizes, tampons, disposable underwear, and baggies to take home soiled underwear. To help fund their efforts, the girls set up an Amazon Wishlist and also accept monetary and product donations (I personally sent them a check for $50).
So what dividends do efforts like this one pay? Period hygiene is just one example of a way schools can improve their climate and culture by caring for their students. It sends a meaningful message that the school will be there when a student has a need or is in a difficult and/or potentially embarrassing situation. As educators, we strive to provide care for the whole child to meet their everyday needs and this is one area in which most schools are failing their female students. Let’s do better.