Austin ISD provides students with free feminine hygiene products

Austin ISD is providing free feminine hygiene products for students this school year.

"There still is stigma around this, and it’s not something that everyone feels comfortable asking for the supplies that they need," Austin ISD Office of Innovation and Development Executive Director Michelle Wallis said.

The district is providing free sanitary napkins and tampons for all students in dispensers in middle school and high school bathrooms and in baskets in elementary schools.

"Not having access or having to go through multiple barriers and having to ask grownups, asking male teachers, male principals, things like that to get the supplies that they needed when that’s just not necessary," Wallis said.

A report by Thinx and PERIOD showed about 80 percent of teens have missed class because they don't have access to the products they need.

"Let’s be real about it, this is a basic need. It’s sort of like toilet paper," Wallis said, "Anything we can do to eliminate barriers for our students to be in their classrooms and learning, is something that we want to explore." 

01 April 2022, Thuringia, Jena: Period products lie in a toilet at Friedrich Schiller University in Jena. At the university, sanitary pads and tampons will again be available free of charge in the restrooms this summer semester. The trial has been ru

Studies show girls, younger than ever before, may need these products.

"It’s really important to help arm them with some good educational tools and start to teach them early about what body changes can occur for young women," Texas Children's Hospital Dr. Jennifer Dietrich said.

The average age for girls who get their first period in the United States is 12.5.

"But certainly, some girls will start pubertal changes as early as 8," Dr. Dietrich said.

Dr. Dietrich said puberty is dictated a lot by genetics, but also nutrition.

"Sometimes it is about a certain body fat index that women need to achieve, and sometimes it is around that 100-pound mark that they may achieve that," Dr. Dietrich said.

She said girls are hitting that mark at a younger age these days.

"Childhood obesity has impacted the age of puberty for young girls," Dr. Dietrich said.

Dr. Dietrich encourages a balanced diet with fresh fruit, vegetables, calcium, and protein.

The instillation of the dispensers cost about $85,000. The district said the cost of stocking and refilling supplies will depend on how many products are used.