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Utah’s 1st free period product dispenser installed in Murray school

Ribbon cutting ceremony at Hillcrest Junior High School
Kristine Weller
Students, faculty and advocates gather to cut a pink ribbon in front of the restroom with the first free period product dispenser.

Hillcrest Junior High School in Murray is the first Utah school to provide free tampons and pads to students under a state law passed earlier this year

HB 162 requires K-12 schools to provide free menstrual products to students. By July 1, all K-12 schools will have period products available in every female and unisex bathroom.

The law was implemented because “period poverty” — a lack of access to period products, education or hygiene facilities — is a prevalent issue in Utah. According to The Policy Project, a national advocacy group, more than 84% of girls in the U.S. have missed class or know someone who has missed class because they didn’t have pads or tampons.

Katelynn, a Hillcrest ninth grader, has missed class because she didn’t have period supplies. She said that time away from class negatively affects girls’ education.

“When you have to get checked out because you forgot some tampons or pads, or your family can’t really afford that, it’s really limiting to your success in your academic [and] financial future,” Katelynn said.

Courtney Nolan, a social worker at Hillcrest, has also seen how girls aren’t as successful when they don’t have access to menstrual products. Without them, she said students felt uncomfortable at school and would miss lessons because they stayed home.

Nolan even tracked attendance for some students and saw a trend.

“I started seeing a kind of dip in attendance once a month for some of my girls because they didn’t have access to those products,” she said.

Lack of access to pads and tampons is part of a larger issue — poverty. One study in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology found that 64% of women in the U.S. have difficulty affording menstrual products and 21% cannot afford pads and tampons every month.

The school’s head custodian, Heather Wilks, has seen how the cost of pads and tampons is a struggle.

“There’s a lot of kids in our school that actually don’t even have money for food,” Wilks said. “So they have to choose between if they want to actually have food at their dinner table or if they're going to buy period products.”

Now, students will not have to choose. Wilks said that they can even take the free pads and tampons home.

“I’m so excited that we’re going to change so many lives in Utah.”

Kristine Weller is a newsroom intern at KUER. She’s only been a journalist for a year but is excited to see what the future holds.
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