Starting in the 2022-2023 school year, public schools and colleges in California will be required to stock their restrooms with free menstrual products under a new law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Oct. 8.
The law, known as the Menstrual Equity for All Act, builds upon a 2017 law that requires schools in low-income areas to provide students with free tampons and menstrual pads. It expands the existing law to include every public school with grades 6 through 12 to maintain “an adequate supply of free menstrual products in all women’s restrooms and all-gender restrooms, and in at least one men’s restroom.”
The new law also requires the California State University and each community college district to stock an adequate supply of free menstrual products at no fewer than one “designated and accessible central location” on each campus, such as student centers, libraries, wellness or health centers, pantries, and study rooms. Private schools and colleges are encouraged to follow suit.
“Our biology doesn’t always send an advanced warning when we’re about to start menstruating, which often means we need to stop whatever we’re doing and deal with a period,” Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, a Democrat who championed the new law, said in a press release. “Just as toilet paper and paper towels are provided in virtually every public bathrooms, so should menstrual products.”
Garcia said the law was inspired by the one passed in November 2020 by the Scottish Parliament, which makes Scotland the first country in the world to make it a legal duty for local government agencies, including public schools and colleges, to ensure free access to menstrual products. The initiative would cost the Scottish government at least £5.2 million, or roughly $7 million, according to the BBC.
A similar bill was signed into law in May by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee. The law requires that public school districts and private schools across the state place free menstrual products in all gender-neutral and women’s restrooms by the beginning of the 2022-2023 school year.
Under the Washington law, if the school doesn’t have a gender-neutral restroom, then the products must be made available in at least one restroom designated for men and boys or in a school health room. It also applies to colleges and universities.
“This bill will help students maintain a safe and healthy standard of personal hygiene while at school, which is particularly important for students who struggle to afford the cost of paying for these products,” Inslee, a Democrat, said before signing the bill.