Minnesota Legislative tries to end period stigma

Half of the world’s population is women, yet most menstrual products in schools aren’t free or don’t provide them. 

The Minnesota Legislature passed a bill called HF 44, which came into effect at the start of 2024. This bill says public and charter schools need menstrual products in every bathroom from fourth to twelfth grade and that they should be free for every student. 

But some schools aren’t following the bill. 

In a Minnesota State Gender and Women’s Studies class, a group project aims to raise awareness about the issue. 

The group held an event on Tuesday, during which they wrote letters and emails to middle school administrators in Minnesota to let them know they needed to follow the law regarding providing menstrual products in girls’ bathrooms. 

During the event, they showed the film “Period. End Of Sentence.” This film discussed the stigma around periods in India and how a small community of women came together to make their own pads. 

The group project requires students to research a topic related to the class and develop ways to advocate for why it should change. They also have to do some activism to help make a change. This could be tabling in the CSU, writing to the school board or having an event. 

“They have menstrual products in the gender-neutral/faculty bathrooms, and there are only two or three of them,” said Amanda Eng, one of the five group members. “And the main big stall bathrooms that all the students go to throughout the day don’t have any products in them.” 

Group members knew they wanted to do something related to menstrual products, but they weren’t sure what. When they found out about the bill, they knew that’s what they were going to focus on. 

“We started out by making rice socks to help with period cramps. But then we found out about the bigger issue and how students don’t have access to these things,” said Sofia Meeh. 

“We finished by playing some menstrual hygiene Jeopardy, and it seemed people had fun. We got a lot of good responses. People were really into it,” said Erica Schleisman. 

After the event, the five of them came up with zines (noncommercial, often homemade, or online publications) to summarize the responses they got from people who attended. They also had a Google Form while they were tabling and had prompts for people at the event. 

“Some people had to miss class because of a lack of period products. I added how people were getting their period younger and thinking that their period was dirty and gross,” said Amanda Eng. “We shouldn’t be treated any less because people do menstruate. They have the right to access those free products.” 

There is a stigma around the menstrual cycle, menstrual products and overall women’s health. Schleisman said she remembers being in health class learning about this, and the guys behind her would be chuckling about it. The teacher wouldn’t do anything about it. During the event, the group showed some of these stigmas. 

“We had all these myths that we were displaying. All of these myths perpetuate the stigma that you shouldn’t talk about it,” said Liz Flatum. “Having a lack of education, or even incompetence towards what menstruation is, perpetuates that stigma.” 

One way the group said can help end the stigma around this topic is by teaching people about it. In general, no law says the information must be medically accurate. 

“I think it’s the only way to take away the stigmas and especially teach men and boys while they’re young how important this stuff is and how it is a serious matter,” said Meeh. “And it’s not just men, it’s women too. My stepmom would be like, ‘Oh, let’s not talk about that.’ Or ‘let’s keep that quiet.’ ‘That’s not something people want to hear about.’ It’s not just put on men, it’s put on women, and then everyone has these unbiased views.” 

This issue affects both middle and high schools. The group said if they were to do this project again, they would focus on both. 

“We assumed they would probably have those things. And I think we now have come to realize that they also do not like it. I know I talked to my younger siblings, and they’re like, ‘No, we still have to pay for them in the bathrooms.’ I mean, at least they have them, but they have to have a quarter,” said Meeh.

Menstruation products are a human right, and people need them to function. Without providing them for free, some students skip school because they can’t afford them on their own. Providing them in schools for free allows those students to stay in school and not miss out on their education.

Photo: (Lauren Viska)

Write to Lauren Viska at

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