Free Menstrual Products at Shaker

Shaker High School and Middle School have installed dispensers that distribute free menstrual products in all girls & gender-neutral bathrooms.


Dispenser at Shaker High School

There’s no denying that this unprecedented school year has ushered in a wave of “firsts:” first hybrid schedule, first opportunity for juniors to drive to school, first Zoom accounts, and more. Most of these firsts have been negative, often taking the place of or eclipsing cherished traditions like homecoming, the excitement of eight taking your least favorite class, field trips, and more. There is one “first,” however, that undeniably has improved Shaker High School: the 2020-2021 school year is the first to have a menstrual equity initiative implemented. All girls and gender-neutral bathrooms at the high school and middle school now have dispensers that provide period products, free of charge.

The stigma around menstruation and periods is incredibly strong. We’re told to whisper about our periods, sneak pads and tampons without anyone noticing, and pretend it’s no big deal. The reality, however, is that menstruation is a big deal–period. The historical stigma and avoidance of the topic of periods has led to a fierce inequity in access to period products, which are undeniably essential. Worldwide, roughly 800,000,000 people menstruate, and nearly 500,000,000 of them lack the products needed to manage their cycles. Pads and tampons are as essential as toilet paper, yet millions of menstruaters lack access to them, and have to resort to using toilet paper, rags, socks, and other unsanitary methods to keep their bleeding in control. GTC member Bianca Anne Lee puts it nicely: “I believe that lack of resources for these products has the same effect of a child staying at home due to an issue such as bullying: there’s a feeling of shame and embarrassment that is placed upon oneself, and these issues would also lead to lack of focus since the mind would be so occupied with emotional anxiety and concern of how we are going to fix this problem, not having these products accessible to us.” Bianca is completely right. Not having access to these necessities is highly distressing and distracting. 

The period stigma is enormous, so it comes as no surprise that North Colonie administrators were unfamiliar with the 2018 New York State law requiring public schools to stock their restrooms with period products at no cost to students. Realizing this, Shaker’s Girls Take Charge club began working early in the school year to find potential solutions. After compiling various resources, they contacted Mr. Murphy to discuss avenues for moving forward.

Once Mr. Murphy and other administrators knew about the issue of menstrual equity and learned of the law, they were phenomenally quick to provide free pads and tampons in Shaker’s bathrooms. Now, we don’t have to worry about hiding pink plastic wrapped products in our sleeves every four weeks, or where our next pad will come from. This is a huge step in the movement for menstrual equity, and we are so thankful to all those who made this possible. Lee says that she feels “relieved that we are taking small steps towards equity by providing things tailored towards more personal needs.” So, sit back and relax: pads and tampons are now free for Shaker students, and they’re going to stay that way.