The chair of the Surrey Board of Education said she thinks the idea of free feminine hygiene products “would be entertained” in this district, following New Westminster’s board passing a historic decision to provide students with free tampons and pads.
“There’s been some casual talk about it off and on, but nothing so far that’s been serious,” trustee Laurie Larsen told the Now-Leader on Wednesday. “Certainly it’s something that will be top of mind now, with New Westminster making the move.”
But, Larsen noted such a decision is “a lot easier for a small district.”
“With a district as large as Surrey, and looking at all of our elementary, high schools and learning centres, it’s a much larger cost,” she said. “It’s not the cost, really of the product. It’s getting the equipment installed. I heard New Westminster was getting them installed on every floor. It would be a very expensive venture for Surrey to take on.”
Larsen said the matter is of concern to her, certainly at some of the inner-city schools.
“It’s a concern for students. It’s an expense,” she added. “And I shouldn’t even say inner-city, because there are lots of students in other areas where it’s an expense they can’t incur.”
Larsen said she wouldn’t be surprised if someone now tabled a motion to explore the idea, in light of New Westminster’s decision, but she noted the district is “winding up our budget so it’s something that would probably have to wait” for the next budget cycle.
According to United Way, one in seven Canadian girls have missed school because of their menstrual cycle, often because of stigma or the lack of access to pads and tampons.
In New Westminster, the district expects the unanimous Feb. 26 decision to cost $10,000 to implement.
Douglas College professor Selina Tribe, who proposed the idea, has been advocating for free menstrual products to be available in all schools across the country.
Tribe said providing these products would ensure fair and equitable access to all genders for basic toiletries. It would remove stigma and cost barriers that sometimes prevent students from fully participating in school activities, she said, “and help all students feel their bodies are valued, dignified, and normal.”
The total cost for New Westminster is estimated to be roughly $9,700 for installing dispensary machines, with an annual cost of $7,000 for supply. The school district is looking to implement the free access by September.
-With files from Ashley Wadhwani