School districts obeying state's feminine-hygiene mandate

School districts obeying state's feminine-hygiene mandate

Local districts are adjusting to a new state requirement that takes effect Monday — providing free feminine hygiene products in school bathrooms.

Known as the Learn with Dignity Act, the amendment to Illinois' school code was approved by Gov. Bruce Rauner on Aug. 18 and cosponsored by state Rep. Carol Ammons (D-Urbana).

It only applies to schools that teach grades six through 12, and it defines feminine hygiene products as tampons and menstrual pads.

"When students do not have access to affordable feminine hygiene products," the act states, "they may miss multiple days of school every month."

The act charges individual school districts with paying for the change.

Tom Lockman, the chief financial and legal officer for Champaign Unit 4 Schools, said that creates a bit of a challenge.

"Kleenex and toilet paper being free is different from this being free," he said.

Lockman said the district bought one dispensing machine for each middle and high school, and installed them in October. The machines are being paid for with miscellaneous funds for now, he said, and outside companies can help foot the bill in spring bidding.

"The products are more likely to go quickly in these machines than if you had to ask for them in an office," Lockman said.

Officials of every school district contacted by The News-Gazette said they were already providing free feminine hygiene products in offices, most frequently the nurse's office.

"We don't have an issue with students missing school because of this, and now we have to spend $500, $600 on these machines," said Monticello Superintendent Vic Zimmerman. "I think it's a bit overstepping on the state legislature's part.

"We didn't have a (state) budget for two years, and then they pass this."

JoAnne Geigner, communications specialist with Urbana School District 116, believes the expense is justified because it can keep girls out of tricky situations.

"If you start your period in a bathroom and have to go somewhere else to get what you need, that can be awkward," Geigner said.

Her district will have one dispensing machine in all middle and high school female bathrooms.

Stacy Johnson, a guidance counselor at Paxton-Buckley-Loda Junior High, said she's concerned about what will happen when the school is open for public events and non-students use the bathrooms.

She said she wouldn't want non-students taking these products, too.

"They're not cheap products to purchase," Johnson said.

Similar to Champaign, Danville School District 118 is hoping that bidding will ease this new expense. The district's director of facilities, Skip Turex, said dispensing machines were installed in the beginning of December — one in every applicable girls bathroom.

"I would assume the reason for the bill is to keep from any embarrassing situations that could arise," Turex said about the act.

Despite this change, Lockman said the district nurse's offices will still provide the products to students who come in and ask.

"A lot of things move forward quickly in the state," Lockman said about legislation. "You hope it's being done thoughtfully."

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juandez wrote on December 26, 2017 at 8:12 am

Leave it yet again to the News-Gazette to turn this into a conservative complaint fest about unfunded mandates and every possible downside instead of just having this be about basic human decency.

If a woman who is not a student takes one of these products at a PBL school, it is because she needs it. What's the problem?

Somehow the same article in newspapers in the Chicago area don't have this weird negative slant to it. Go figure.

If this was a product males needed, this article wouldn't have been written.


Natalie Wickman wrote on December 26, 2017 at 11:12 am

Thank you for your feedback. I included a variety of opinions in this article, including ones that don't see any problem with this change. Including several views is essential to making this a news story, which it is, and not an opinion piece. I wrote this story because it is about a significant change that addresses a female issue that has mostly been overlooked in the past.  

wayward wrote on December 26, 2017 at 10:12 pm

"If a woman who is not a student takes one of these products at a PBL school, it is because she needs it..."

I'm guessing the concern isn't so much about a non-student taking *one* because she needs it as much as multiple non-students taking a whole bunch because they're available.

Milanus wrote on December 26, 2017 at 11:12 am

As a conservative leaning male, with women in my life, we should certainly find a way to have feminine hygiene products accessible, especially to students. Not having to leave the bathroom to obtain these is pretty essential, and I know we spend tons more money on things that aren't making a difference, that could be put towards this.

I understand why someone would not want to use money on this, because of course you've all seen a dispenser machine absolutely destroyed, even if the stuff is free. There's ways around that, and hopefully other people will help keep that from happening because of the importance of said products.

I would also look into brands that want to sponsor these dispensers, because if they want to put their brand in the hands of users for the long haul, they can put their product in these machines with their brand name plastered all over it, this offsetting the cost and achieving the goal of these products being accessible.

Joe American wrote on December 26, 2017 at 1:12 pm

No, no one is staying home because it's their time of the month and they don't have pads.  Don't be so naive.


First of all, the government is not in the business of providing pads to girls whose mothers choose to spend their money on iPhones, manicures and tattoos rather than on their daughters.


And they DO have access to cheap products.  It's called Walmart, the same place the rest of the women get them.  It's more "vote for me because I gave you free stuff" baloney.

Community wrote on December 26, 2017 at 4:12 pm

I'm organizing a rally to end free public access to toilet paper, and I expect you to be there with me, brother! Solidarity! Responsible patriotic men BUY THEIR OWN TP!!!

juandez wrote on December 26, 2017 at 8:12 pm

Unless Joe American carries around his own roll of TP with him all the time in his man purse, he needs to be quiet and go away.

Milanus wrote on December 26, 2017 at 7:12 pm

Yeah, when they're on school grounds, they can just waltz on to Wal-Mart and get whatever they need... Come on. I'm a guy, and I know that there is no reason we shouldn't be doing this. I don't like that state law had to get involved, and I think voluntary change is best, but here's where we are. High school is bad enough without the embarrassment of a feminine issue.

I still think companies could sponsor the system, offset the tax burden, and still achieve the goal of taking care of our girls in a rough time of life.

fuddrules wrote on December 26, 2017 at 11:12 pm

The law didn't have to get involved. They chose to for political purposes.

I do however need free popcorn at every sporting event. It's obligatory for my gullet to function.

Khristine wrote on December 26, 2017 at 12:12 pm
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Frankly, this should have been done years ago. It was a huge embarrassment when I was a girl 35 years ago to have to trek to the nurses office and sometimes need to answer questions from a staff member or two about your situation prior to being allowed to see the nurse just to ask for a pad. While you’re on this little adventure, you’re ruining your clothing that you’ll likely have to sit in the rest of the day. If you have to go home because of soiled clothing, everyone know why. 


This expense is is not going to break the school district’s budget. It’s 2017 and it’s high time shaming women, especially young women, for a natural menstrual cycle is abhorant. Enough. 

Dennis Held wrote on December 26, 2017 at 6:12 pm

I hope everyone realizes that the water for the flush is free too.  And the water in the sink.  Totally free.  Why are we giving free stuff to kids?  How will they ever learn to be on their own if feminine products, toilet paper, water to flush are all free stuff.  Just stick a  paperless outhouse in back of the school for the kids to use.  No wait!  The outhouse costs money!  Crap!  (pun intended)

juandez wrote on December 26, 2017 at 8:12 pm

I understand the difference between true news reporting and opinion pieces. That said, you still went out of your way to tell a certain story and managed to slant this in a certain directino while still being "objective."

There's a certain irony to me, a man, calling a woman out on writing a piece about this topic with this bizarre slant.

By the same arguement, if 99 scientists believe the earth is a sphere, and 1 nutjob thinks it is flat, you'd give both "sides" equal time in an article and make it appear as though there is a genuine debate on the topic.

LRussell wrote on December 26, 2017 at 9:12 pm

I’m probably old fashioned by today’s standards but good grief, when I was a 12-13 yo back in the 70’s we were prepared for this inconvenience and never missed school days. Do mothers\fathers ever talk to their daughters nowadays? 

wayward wrote on December 26, 2017 at 10:12 pm

Ha, I can remember having this overbearing nun for 7th grade homeroom, and none of the girls wanted to have to go to her for help if they got their first period at school. Not that the law covers Catholic schools, but a machine that discreetly gave away products would have been awesome. We didn't have lockers in 7th-8th grade and the idea of guys seeing you with that stuff seemed super embarrassing. In high school, girls carried purses and we finally had lockers -- so much easier.

rsp wrote on December 26, 2017 at 11:12 pm

Would that be the same mothers and fathers trying to ban sex ed and health classes because kids aren't supposed to know about their own bodies? And you really think nobody missed school back in the 70's because of this? They did and still do. They just weren't on your radar.

wayward wrote on December 26, 2017 at 9:12 pm

Seems like a good idea. I remember female sanitary products being given away for free at an internship and also at a conference I attended last year. There was an unwritten expectation that people would take only what they needed, and everyone seemed to respect that. If this wasn't the case in schools, they could probably find a way to limit how much each person could take, but I hope that doesn't become necessary.