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Free period products in CPS schools were suggested over 2 years ago. Now, it might happen

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The Hamilton County Commission on Women and Girls first proposed free menstrual products in Cincinnati Public Schools in late November 2019, just weeks before COVID-19 broke out in the United States. After delays, the project is now moving forward.

Commission member Rebecca Brown says the group is meeting with the Cincinnati Public Schools district Thursday.

"For us, I believe, it's incredibly important that we address this issue of inequity," she said. "I think, if toilet paper is considered an essential item or soap is considered an essential item for our bodily functions, why aren't period products? Why isn't our menstrual health being promoted in that same kind of way?"

Mercedes Briggs, a junior at Seton High School, is also on the commission. Her school is not in CPS, but she says the issue is still important to her because access to period products is an equity issue.

"There are some disadvantaged kids that go to my school and we do not have free products in every bathroom. Some teachers — only some — they'll have tampons or pads in their room," she said. "I understand everybody has a period at our school. But sometimes it's just very awkward and embarrassing."

Roughly1 in 5 menstruating teens struggle with period poverty — the inability or struggle to afford period products in the United States. About 80% of teens have missed class time because they didn't have access to period products.

Almost four hours from Cincinnati,Ann Arbor, Mich.,began requiring free menstrual products in all public restrooms, including at private businesses. In California and Washington D.C., free menstrual products became required in public schools this year.

Commissioner Denise Driehaus says getting hygiene products into school restrooms has been delayed because of the costs associated with it, but that's changing.

She says the Commission on Women and Girls is working to create outside partners with companies like Procter & Gamble to fund the project.

She says in addition to CPS, the county is also still finding ways to provide products to schools throughout the county.

With movement in the issue happening throughout the country, Brown says she thinks there's finally enough support to make the project happen soon.

"This is just the beginning of that momentum," she said. "And I feel like we finally have not only the right people behind it, but the right passion behind it to really get this going and make a difference."

Jolene Almendarez is the granddaughter of Mexican immigrants who came to San Antonio in the 1960s. She was raised in a military family and has always called the city home. She studied journalism at San Antonio College and earned a bachelor's degree in Journalism and Public Communications from the University of Alaska Anchorage. She's been a reporter in San Antonio and Castroville, Texas, and in Syracuse and Ithaca, New York.