The question of whether tampons belong in boys’ bathrooms goes before the Oregon State Board of Education on Monday, when the seven-person body will weigh public testimony sparked by a Southern Oregon mom’s petition to scale back access to free menstrual products in public schools.

Written public comment on Oregon’s Menstrual Dignity Act, which went into full effect at the beginning of this school year, skewed nearly four to one in favor of removing the law’s requirement that public schools stock menstrual products in all bathrooms, including those designated for boys as young as kindergarten. Oregon’s law goes further than similar ones in Washington and California.

On Monday, the board will vote whether to deny the petition from Eagle Point School District board member Cherylene Stritenberg or further review it, said Oregon Department of Education spokesperson Marc Siegel.

Stritenberg, acting as an individual, introduced her petition to amend House Bill 3294 on June 23, prompting a public-comment period that drew close to 240 letters and emails, including dozens of auto-generated ones that opponents of the bill could easily click and send. About 185 of the comments argued in favor of Stritenberg’s petition, with many of those saying the current rule wastes money by putting menstrual products in boys’ bathrooms, a requirement that legislators put in place to make sure transgender boys assigned female at birth and non-binary students had free access to period products regardless of what facility they used.

If approved, the petition would require K-12 schools to provide free tampons and pads “in at least two bathrooms.”

“My petition doesn’t prevent a district from putting as many tampons in as many bathrooms as they see fit for their district; it just wouldn’t require all districts to do so,” Stritenberg said in an email to The Oregonian/OregonLive.

Schools across the state prepared over the summer to comply with H.B. 3294 by buying supplies and dispensers, for which Oregon will reimburse districts. The 2021 law is annually expected to cost about $2.8 million, money that will come from the State School Fund.

Those in favor of keeping the bill as is see it as an opportunity to destigmatize menstruation and alleviate stress and worry for trans and nonbinary students. If boys vandalize bathrooms with the products, that shouldn’t curtail access, some people in favor of the rule wrote. Instead, boys’ behavior should change, they argued.

State Rep. Rick Ruiz, D-Gresham, who sponsored the bill, urged the board to keep the rule intact, writing with Rep. Courtney Neron, D-Wilsonville, that free and broad access will help more students feel comfortable at school.

“From across the state, we heard horror stories of menstruators who experienced shame, stigma, or harassment over a normal bodily function,” they wrote. “As we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, we must reimagine our support for students, and once again be a leader in removing barriers to learning.”

– Austin De Dios

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