Students in the Design Justice class at Bend Senior High School are celebrating a tangible victory for a long-championed project, as free menstrual products are now in place at schools throughout Bend-La Pine Schools and now being installed in schools across the state. For more than two years, Bend Senior High students advocated for this project, testifying before state lawmakers on behalf of the Menstrual Dignity Act and, after the law’s passage, helping design and edit a toolkit to implement the new guidelines.
Bend Senior High sophomore Isobel McDonald has been part of the effort by students and says it’s gratifying to see the dispensers in place.
“It's exciting to work on projects where we get to see real time results. The menstrual product dispensers, which provide free tampons and pads, are creating equity and providing a product that all students can access easily, which hasn't always been the case. The process of working to bring dispensers to the district and to also work on the state law has been really rewarding,” said McDonald.
Students in the class also helped review the type of product to stock, getting support for Bend-La Pine Schools to use 100% biodegradable, all-paper products that are sustainable.
Last spring, students in the Design Justice class testified before lawmakers about the bill, which requires free period products be accessible inside school bathrooms, and also spoke in front of Bend-La Pine Schools’ Board of Directors. Teacher Matt Fox says this kind of real-world action provides students opportunities to gain leadership skills.
“Watching our students take on this issue and follow it from idea to implementation has been incredible. I’m proud of the class and watched them develop into leaders who care about making positive change in the world,” said Fox.
Teams from Bend-La Pine Schools’ maintenance and custodial crews worked to install dispensers filled with product at high schools and middle schools in August and in the fifth-grade wings in elementary schools by Dec. 1. The units at middle and high schools are up and running with products, and those at elementary schools should be filled with products soon, if not yet already in place. Next on the list is for maintenance to install dispensers in all women’s bathrooms and family/gender neutral bathrooms.
Those wanting to learn more about the project can check out the Oregon toolkit, which helps spell out the law and inform schools on how to roll it out.
Sasha Grenier with the Oregon Department of Education said that the toolkit designers reached out to the Bend Senior High students after their testimony during the House Committee on Education in March 2021.
“It was integral to the project to have student voice in the Toolkit, so that implementing Districts and schools would know how best to provide menstrual products and education in a way that centers student privacy, dignity and access,” said Grenier.