September 13, 2023
The #StandingStrong Award recognizes those who fight for young people’s access to comprehensive, inclusive, and affirming sexual and reproductive healthcare services and education. We are pleased to announce the Menstrual Dignity for Students Program from the Oregon Department of Education as our 2023 #StandingStrong awardee.
Recent years have raised public awareness about period poverty, which is the limited or inadequate access to menstrual products or menstrual health education. A 2021 study commissioned by PERIOD. and Thinx found that 23% of students struggled to afford menstrual products, and 67% of students have either missed class or know someone who has missed class because they did not have access to menstrual products.
In 2021, the Oregon State Legislature passed the 2021 Menstrual Dignity Act (HB 3294), which requires free menstrual products to be provided for all K-12 students in all public school buildings in Oregon. This groundbreaking legislation provided the funding to support the Menstrual Dignity for Students Program, which ensures that all menstruating students—regardless of gender, age, ability, or socioeconomic status—have the opportunity for safe, dignified self-care.
The Menstrual Dignity for Students Program requires that schools provide products and dispensers in a safe, private, accessible, and gender-affirming manner. The program also guarantees that education must cover menstrual health as a positive part of being human, without shame, and in a way that is affirming and accessible for all students of all genders. To assist school districts with implementation and requirements, program staff created the Menstrual Dignity for Students Toolkit to support educators and administrators to hold student equity and menstrual dignity at the center, so all students have the opportunity for safe, dignified self-care.
To assist school districts with implementation and requirements, program staff created the Menstrual Dignity for Students Toolkit to support educators and administrators to hold student equity and menstrual dignity at the center, so all students have the opportunity for safe, dignified self-care.
Last year, Eagle Point School District board member Cherylene Stritenberg—who petitioned as a private citizen—asked the Oregon State Board of Education to roll back the law under the argument that it wastes school funding. In her petition, she asked that the requirement that menstrual products be available in all bathrooms be removed and only require schools to provide products in “at least two bathrooms.” Stritenberg felt that having menstrual products available in boys’ bathrooms was unnecessary. “The added cost that we are going to put into our school districts to support this is over the top,” Stritenberg said. “There’s no need for us to divert funds to go above and beyond what is actually needed. Boys do not menstruate, so to have them in boys’ bathrooms is unnecessary.”
This petition triggered a period of public comment and ultimately led to a vote by Oregon State Board of Education, in which they denied Stritenberg’s petition. There is currently a bill being advanced in the Oregon Senate that seeks to remove the requirements of the Menstrual Dignity Act for charter schools and bathrooms designated for boys. Supporters of the Menstrual Dignity Act have expressed that having these products available in all bathrooms allows people to take products home to family who might not be able to afford them, as well as making sure they are easily accessible for transgender boys and nonbinary people who menstruate. Widespread availability and visibility also works to break the stigma around menstruation and allows for more open dialogue and comfort around period products.
Sasha Grenier, MPH, will be accepting this award on behalf of Menstrual Dignity for Students Program at the Sexuality Education Specialist at the Oregon Department of Education (ODE). Working as a Sexuality Education Specialist at ODE, Sasha supports school districts to provide comprehensive sexuality education, menstrual dignity programming, child abuse prevention education, and pregnant and parenting student supports.
We will present Menstrual Dignity for Students Program with the 2023 #StandingStrong Award at #HealthyTeen23, our annual national conference, to be held October 2-4. We hope you can join us in Portland to help congratulate Sasha!
Wondering who else has received the #StandingStrong Award? Check out past awardees on our conference website.
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