DENVER (CBS4) – Denver’s City Council voted to remove local sales tax on menstrual hygiene products two years ago. In 2021, Denver Public Schools took it one step further and gave students access to these products- for free.
Caitlin Soch was a senior at George Washington High School when she initiated the drive to make these products free for students in 2019.READ MORE: Jeffco Public Schools Aims To Offer Flexibility With Remote Learning Next Fall
“What really drew my attention to this was how often I would have to ask others, or others would ask me, for these products,” said Soch. “At some schools, and in the majority of bathrooms in my high school, we did not even have tampon dispensers. We would have to go to the nurse if we wanted a tampon or pad.”
When Soch was asked why women can’t just go to the nurse’s office, she said “having a period is not an illness.”
For non-cisgender students with periods, Soch explains they would be outing themselves if they had to go to the nurse, or ask a classmate, for menstrual hygiene products.
“It’s so important to provide those young people with the capability to take care of this without involving an adult. They shouldn’t have to if they don’t feel comfortable sharing that,” said Soch.
Soch believes students shouldn’t have to gather the courage, or the money, to obtain products as necessary as toilet paper. It’s a monthly expense that adds up, especially for DPS families who are already struggling to make ends meet.
DPS Board Director Tay Anderson and Soch both rallied ahead of a legislative effort to make menstrual products free to students statewide. After she graduated, Anderson picked up where she left off.READ MORE: COVID In Aurora: Signs For Vaccine Become Sticking Point Between Clinic & City
“Those students were right. We were neglecting their health. We were neglecting them as individuals and we have to do better,” said Anderson. “I became such an advocate for this because students came to me and said, ‘I can’t buy a bus pass and buy a box of tampons.’ This shouldn’t be something that our students lose classroom minutes for.”
Providing free menstrual products to DPS students will cost the district between $27,000 and $30,000 annually, a small expense out of a billion-dollar budget, Anderson says.
The reactions he’s heard from students so far are priceless.
“I’ve had students reach out who were surprised that these appeared in their schools yesterday. Teachers were saying that there were students in tears and some were very shocked. They just wanted to know why it took so long,” said Anderson.
Soch is now a freshman at Colorado College. She’s unable to benefit from the product of her work, but she couldn’t be happier that thousands of students will.
“This is one of the most exciting things that’s ever happened in my life, whether I’m there or not,” said Soch.MORE NEWS: Douglas County Schools To Bring Middle & High School Students Back After Spring Break
Anderson is now asking DPS to expand this initiative, so free menstrual products are available in every restroom: Women’s and Men’s. He says this will give access to students who are trans or non-binary and don’t use gender conforming restrooms.