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Washington high school students help pass bill guaranteeing free tampons, pads in schools

Starting in 2022, middle and high schools must offer menstrual products to students in on-campus restrooms thanks to some Washington high school students.

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Starting in the fall of 2022, middle and high schools must offer menstrual products to students, free of charge in on-campus restrooms.

A group of Lake Washington High School students helped write the legislation and testified in favor of the bill for the past two sessions in Olympia.

The bill died last year, but the students brought it up to lawmakers again this year.

Gov. Jay Inslee signed House Bill 1273  into law earlier this month.

“I felt that immense relief and happiness and comfort knowing that the work we did will be helping students in the future,” said Lake Washington senior Nelly Mex, one of six students to testify in favor of the bill during several legislative hearings over the winter.

While many districts offer the products in nursing offices, student Lily Ulrich said not all students are willing to ask for them.

The law requires the products be made available in all-female and gender-neutral restrooms.

Offering the products in a more private setting makes it easier for students, since they don't have to ask for them, Ulrich said.

“It takes away some of the stigma,” said Ulrich, “If… it’s readily available at school, it’s not as embarrassing.”

Riley Rabuchin said some students who cannot afford the products have chosen to stay home and miss school as a result.

“These kids were missing up to a week, every month,” said Rabuchin, “While their peers and male counterparts are getting ahead on the material… We have to ask ourselves, how is that fair, and it’s not.”

School districts will be required to pay for the products, which as a result of a bill passed in 2020, are no longer subject to state sales tax.

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