Irvington Works to Address Period Poverty

Alice Shu and Roxana Shahmohammadi

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Irvington administration and ASG’s public relations committee have begun work on addressing period poverty at Irvington High School alongside an anonymous student who, within the weeks before the start of winter break, began posting flyers regarding the issue and providing free period products such as tampons and pads in women’s bathrooms. What started as leftover products in a senior hallway bathroom and flyers in the hallway escalated into products and flyers in all the womens’ bathrooms across campus.

“I saw that students took almost all of the stuff that I put in the first bathroom,” said the anonymous student. “So I thought that if the school wasn’t going to do anything for the students, I might as well help them out on my own.”

 She was motivated to start raising awareness about period poverty at Irvington after realizing that the school period product machines in the bathrooms did not work. She hoped that the flyers would have people “start talking about the issue on campus”. 

“Social advocacy is a huge part of Irvington,” said Principal Amanda Melsby, “so we absolutely want students, if they are concerned about an issue, to bring it to our attention. This issue was already on our radar, so it worked really nicely when those posters went up.”

Currently, free period products are available at the campus supervisors’ and the main office, but Assistant Principal Sarah Gialdini is concerned about the convenience of these locations. The product machines found in most women’s bathrooms are also broken or empty: a remnant of the school’s original construction and a representation of “an old way of doing things”, according to Assistant Principal Gialdini. Instead of painting over the machines, administration has decided to provide free products for students. 

“The goal we wanted to hit was simply wider access,” said Assistant Principal Gialdini. “So that was the initial conversation with ASG. We came up together — the committee and I — with a list of different places on campus that had some need, and started looking at a campus map and invited teachers to participate. Everyone was on board, very excited to be able to help.”

Kaitlyn Phan (12), ASG’s Public Relations Director, started planning the project last year. “It’s about eliminating a worry for students,” said Phan. “Even though there are products currently available, no one really knows about them and they’re very inconvenient to access”. 

Phan approached administration to see how they could reallocate resources to give students easy access to products. The committee currently has a list of teachers willing to offer period products to students and is working to provide baskets of products in their classes, where students can take them if they need to. However, due to school policy, Irvington is prohibited to provide painkillers for students, so only pads will be provided.

The committee hopes that the project can be implemented before students return from winter break. The next step is to increase communication and publicity about the project, and to ensure that the products can be restocked efficiently. They hope that this project will eventually become a regular part of the Irvington community.

“By making it a part of things we do here, it’ll increase the school culture,” said Assistant Principal Gialdini. “When students feel that they have the things they need at school, we create a place where students can be successful.”

Alice Shu
Signs raising awareness about period poverty began appearing in the school bathrooms.

Alice Shu
Free products were offered in some bathrooms on campus.