Beginning in January, Montgomery County Public Schools will place menstrual hygiene product dispensers in two middle schools as part of a pilot program to bring these dispensers to all middle and high schools by 2025.
Adding these dispensers has been under discussion by the Board of Education since 2020, but a May mandate by the Maryland Assembly helped move forward the pilot program detailed at Thursday’s meeting.
According to state law, each county BOE must ensure that public schools provide menstrual hygiene products free of charge to students at the secondary level. The state set aside $500,000 for the statewide mandate.
Seth Adams, MCPS director of the Department of Facilities Management, predicted it would cost MCPS more than $1 million to add the dispensers, which must be constantly stocked, at its 1,675 female and single-use restrooms throughout its 66 secondary schools.
The pilot program will be conducted at Montgomery Village and White Oak middle schools and run from Jan. 1, 2022, until June 30, 2022. The district will install different dispenser models and stock them with different kinds of menstrual products to see what works best, Adams said.
All products will be 100% organic cotton in keeping with MCPS’ sustainability goal.
Student Member of the Board Hana O’Looney was instrumental both at the state and county level in bringing the dispensers to MCPS schools. “I am super, super excited for this. It’s like everything is coming full circle,” she said.
The pilot program is part of a five-year plan to add dispensers to all secondary schools. Under the state law, as of Oct. 1, 2022, all public middle and high schools must have these dispensers installed in at least two women’s restrooms. By Aug. 1, 2025, they must be installed in all the women’s restrooms.
Also, public elementary schools must have installed dispensers in at least one restroom by Oct. 1, 2022.
MCPS plans to surpass those goals by adding dispensers at single-use bathrooms as well.
Currently, students need to go to their health rooms to obtain menstrual hygiene products.
MCPS used to have these dispensers in restrooms many years ago, but they were removed due to vandalism and clogged toilet problems, Adams said.