Palm Beach County coalition tackling period poverty in schools
When Sophia Antoni and Emerson Ferry entered high school, they had no idea they’d be front and center in a fight. It’s a fight they said handpicked them.
"We need period products as accessible as toilet paper or hand soap. It's a basic necessity. We cannot control our periods," Ferry said.
For three years, the girls, along with other members of Coalition Against Period Poverty (C.A.P.P.), have tried to persuade Florida lawmakers to require school districts to provide free period products in all bathrooms. From the start, Rep. Kelly Skidmore has been on their side. She said one in four girls misses class, because they don't have what they need and they shouldn't have to hunt it down.
"Boys don't have to go to the front office and ask for toilet paper and girls should not have to find where the nurses office is in order to get a tampon or a pad," Skidmore said.
Before the pandemic, C.A.P.P started a pilot program at Santaluces High School in Lantana, stocking bathrooms with free menstrual supplies paid for by a grant. The principal, Tameka Robinson, said it is a relief and not just for students.
"It takes the worry of their plate," Robinson said. "It takes the worry of the staff's place, because sometimes we had to provide personal hygiene products."
This spring, C.A.P.P finally got a breakthrough. Lawmakers approved a bill encouraging school districts to make menstrual products free and accessible. However, Skidmore said finding money in the budget is still a hang up for school districts, which is why she has been vocal about the importance of schools finding community partners to provide supplies.
While the finish line is close, Antoni and Ferry said until schools are mandated to do more, they won't give up their fight.
"We waste our time in our bathroom missing our classes lessons and missing important discussions," Antoni said.
The Palm Beach County School District has partnered with GIVT, a non-profit organization that stocks its school clinics with feminine hygiene products. As of right now, a school spokeswoman said there are no plans to make this a line item in the budget.
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