Vandalizing menstrual product dispensers creates discriminatory environment for transgender students

The menstrual product dispenser vandalized in the boys’ bathroom.

For menstruating students, the dreaded time of the month can send one into a frenzy of panic. Imagine sitting in class, only to realize that your dear Aunt Flo has arrived. You run to the bathroom, eyeing the menstrual product dispenser, only to see it’s empty. You run to the nurse’s office, hurriedly looking for a pad or tampon, only to come back to class 20 minutes later. 

On Oct 19, 2021, Illinois representative Barbara Hernandez introduced an amendment to the school code to combat the woes of menstruating students. House Bill 156, signed into law by Governor JB Pritzker in August 2021, provides that menstrual hygiene products should be available and consistently stocked in “each bathroom of every school building” for students in grades 4 through 12 at no cost to students. 

While this amendment is an important milestone in supporting and representing transgender menstruating students, it has met some resistance in Conant boys’ bathrooms. According to Principal Julie Nowak, there have been five reports of vandalism to the menstrual product dispensers in the boys’ bathrooms, including breaking or damaging the dispenser, trying to take the dispensers off the walls, and ruining the menstrual products inside. In some cases, this damage required the school to completely replace the dispensers, costing over $200 per dispenser, in addition to replacing the menstrual products. Not only does vandalism incur high expenses for the school, but it is also an act of discrimination against transgender students. 

Parts of the vandalized dispensers lie on floor of the boys’ bathroom. Students should be able to use the bathroom that they feel most comfortable using while still having the necessary resources to deal with their periods. 

While stocking product dispensers in the girls’ bathroom has been a well-supported issue, transgender students shouldn’t be neglected or deprived of the resources that they need. Menstruation is not a choice and is something that affects all people with a uterus. Menstrual products are a basic human necessity for all menstruating individuals and should be supplied the same way we expect school bathrooms to be stocked with toilet paper and soap. 

It is unclear whether students are vandalizing the menstrual product dispensers out of immaturity or for malicious reasons, but the matter of fact is that vandalism is not only foolish, but disrespectful and harmful to the school community. 

When students decide to destroy supplies needed specifically by menstruating students, it is an attack on the rights of transgender students. The destruction of menstrual product dispensers in the boys’ bathrooms creates an environment of hostility, harassment, transphobia, and discrimination–all of which Conant does not stand for. 

Supplying menstrual products in the boys’ bathroom does not infringe on the rights or experience of any non-menstruating individual in the bathroom. All students are entitled to feel comfortable using the bathroom of their choice and using menstrual products supplied by the school. All students at Conant High School deserve to feel safe, protected, and respected. 

To those students who feel the need to vandalize menstrual product dispensers, these discriminatory acts and political statements of hate are intolerable and both disgust and anger the Conant Crier. The Conant Crier recognizes the seriousness of the issue and the threatening impact it can have on people’s lives. We implore the students of Conant High School to act in ways that promote equity and respect in the Conant community. 

Furthermore, when students create damage to any school property, they are wasting money that is meant for the student body. When the school has to spend funds to replace dispensers and menstrual products, they can no longer spend that money on other items or services for students. 

While supplying menstrual hygiene products in all bathrooms creates an added cost, educational institutions need to prioritize the comfort and well-being of all students. Providing menstrual products in all bathrooms is one way that a school can make students feel valued, seen, and cared for. 

Implementing free menstrual products in schools helps to alleviate period poverty for students who can’t afford them. Period products are expensive–the average woman spends about $13.25 a month on menstrual products, totaling around $6,360 in an average woman’s reproductive lifetime and posing a considerable economic burden to all their users. According to a study conducted by PERIOD and THINX, an estimated 23% of teenage students have struggled to afford menstrual products. 

Having free, accessible menstrual products helps to support the education of all students who menstruate. Without access to proper supplies, students may feel unfocused from the fear of period leakage. This fear can cause students to miss class time or impede their participation in class to avoid embarrassment, becoming a barrier to education.

Many have been working hard to ensure that all menstruating students get the resources they need. Resisting their efforts by vandalizing the product dispensers is disgusting. Thriving off inflicting other students with embarrassment, humiliation, and discrimination is not only inhumane, but it also speaks volumes of your character. As the school and state actively work to bring students equitable resources, vandalizing menstrual products only holds us back from progressing towards inclusivity for all students. To any students who purposefully damage these dispensers in the boys’ bathroom, please realize that your acts of bigotry are immature and hold our school back from ensuring that all students are protected and represented.

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