For the first time, the Department of Education will be stocking some school bathrooms with free tampons and sanitary napkins. NY1's Lindsey Christ filed the following report.
At the High School for Arts and Business in Corona, Queens, Principal Ana Zambrano Burako credits a few machines in the bathroom with boosting her attendance rate by nearly 3 percentage points.
"I am very big on equality for boys and girls, and in previous years, I had noticed that in previous years, many of our girls were missing part of the day because they just chose to go home or be picked up," the principal said.
She says that's because they got their period and didn't have the right supplies to stay in class. But now, the school has free dispensers in the women's bathrooms with tampons and sanitary napkins. It's one of 25 middle and high schools in Queens and the Bronx that's part of a pilot program.
"This has actually happened to me a lot," said Kayla Celik, a student at the High School for Arts and Business. "So I'm pretty excited because I am also really embarrassed about it and I would always hide it during class when I would have to go to the bathroom. So I'm not that nervous anymore."
There are 11,600 girls who attend the 25 schools in the program. All should have dispensers operating by the end of the month.
"They can just simply go directly to the bathroom. Nobody needs to know what is going on," said Evelyn Acosta, assistant principal at the High School for Arts and Business. "So it doesn't have to be this public thing."
The pilot is expected to cost about $160,000 and will be paid for by the Department of Education.
"It's been a very interesting learning experience as we've been speaking to our principals, our staff, our facilities people," said Deputy Schools Chancellor Elizabeth Rose. "It has created an entirely new dialogue, as people who are not normally working with women's products are learning a lot about menstruation and the products that we need."
Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland spearheaded the initiative. She says she hopes to expand it to all other schools and beyond.
"This conversation is a broader conversation. It goes out from the Department of Education to shelters to prisons and really improving our policy as a city behind feminine hygiene products," she said.