High school students in Fredericton access free tampons in pilot project

The Anglophone West School District has launched a menstrual hygiene pilot project to help prevent lost time for girls at two Fredericton high schools.

The project aims to provide students with free menstrual supplies in washrooms at both Leo Hayes High School and Fredericton High School.

While some students might need to borrow a feminine hygiene product here and there, Joanna Seeley, a public health nurse for the district's healthy learners in school program, said there are also students who have their entire menstrual needs provided by the school.  

"All female-born students have at least one experience in their lifetime where they have not had a product on hand that they greatly needed, or it could be that students don't have the finances to purchase the products and pads they need," Seeley said.

Attendance and periods

The pilot project, which is being funded by New Brunswick's Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, started in March and will continue until the end of the school year.

Groups of students at each school are filling the washroom dispensers and tracking the number of products being used.

This will determine whether the supplies make a difference in student attendance.

"The hope is if students can meet their menstrual hygiene needs at school that they won't be tardy for classes," she said. "They would be able to come to school."

Seeley will present the findings to the school district in the fall before a decision is made on whether to continue the program.

Products not easy to access

In previous years, Seeley said, students in the district received free products from companies. But those products are no longer distributed.

Seeley believes this has had an impact on students. Some will even stay at home because they aren't able to meet their hygiene needs at school, she said.

And although schools might have products on hand, tampons and pads might not be in locations accessible to students.  

"There's just not enough time in that transition time, where students are going from one class to another, to get the products, make the changes they need, and then go back to class," she said.

Some teachers supply tampons

Last year, nurses from a Horizon Health program in the Anglophone West School District, contacted school administrators to find out what resources were available at their schools to supply menstrual hygiene products to students.

From that, a summary report was provided to the district about what middle and high schools were doing to address the need for menstrual hygiene products.

Kate Bueckert/CBC

"Some schools were providing products through fundraisers or through donations, some schools were getting them at cost through some local pharmacies," Seeley said.

At other schools, teachers themselves would pay for feminine products, so there would be some on hand for students.