Menstrual products are a necessity under Title 9.
First, a quick background on the basics of what Title IX is and why it’s important. Title IX was passed by Congress in June of 1972 as a part of the Education Amendments with the intent to bar sex discrimination in all federally funded educational programs and activities. This was a landmark legislative move that established a precedent for educational programs to be proactive in making sure that their campuses were free from sexual-based harassment, discrimination, and violence. It also created protections for students from facing retaliation from any source as a result of Title IX investigations or inquiries.
“But, how does this apply to menstruation?”
While Title IX does not explicitly reference menstruation, the intent of Title IX is to reduce disparities in educational equity and opportunity on the basis of sex. Our opinion? This can CLEARLY be linked to menstruation because of the enormous impact that access to free and quality menstrual products has on participation and attendance in educational programs.
What we’re learning is that a lack of access to free menstrual products directly impacts educational equity for students across America.
We already know that on average in the USA, lack of access to menstrual products can drop school attendance by a minimum of 2.4%. A study from the Aunt Flow pilot program with Princeton University found that 9% of students who used our menstrual products previously couldn’t afford them. These startling statistics highlight the impact on educational attainment that unsupported menstruation can cause, and this is just touching on TIME spent juggling educational attendance and menstrual needs.
“Wait, you’re telling me there’s more of an impact than just lost time?!”
YES! Absolutely there is. High school students across the country are subject to constant observation by both peers and instructors alike - and not all students will have autonomous access to bathrooms with access to menstrual products in general, let alone free menstrual products. We already know that a startling number of students are unable to afford menstrual products - but what’s more is that students across the country routinely face harassment and exclusion from both peers and restrictive school policies for their menstrual cycle. In one jarring example, a differently-abled 11 year old girl was expelled from a federally funded after school program in Texas just because she had begun to menstruate. A lawsuit citing the protections under Title IX (amongst other protective legislation) has been served to overturn the expulsion in a ruling that could break new ground on menstrual equity in American schools.
“So… What can WE do?”
GREAT question! Start the conversation with school school administrators and reference Title IX. All schools (including colleges and universities) that receive federal funding are required to adhere to Title IX, which means that Title IX can be leveraged to create menstrual equality in some really incredible ways. First, it can help pass state legislation mandating that school restrooms are fully stocked with menstrual products that are freely available. Next, Title IX can be used to ensure that no student experiences discipline or marginalization due to their menstrual cycle. Title IX can also be used to end stigma around menstruation by reducing unnecessary trips to nurses offices for access to products; menstruation is not an illness - it should not be treated as one.