Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Student advocacy at work

This is a great story coming in from New Bedford's School Committee meeting on Monday on student advocacy around menstruation and schools:
Zhang spoke with fellow Keith students eighth-grader Alizeh Johnson and seventh-grader Najah Burks, accompanied by Jordan Pouliot Latham, development associate at the YWCA. Superintendent Thomas Anderson said after meeting with them, he invited the young women to come back to the School Committee to provide an update on their project. They spoke during public comment at the February committee meeting, asking for pads and tampons to be included in the fiscal 2020 budget.
“Many girls in New Bedford are low income,” Zhang continued, and parents may not want to spend their limited money on menstrual hygiene products, and even if they do, they may not be able to afford them since they’re not covered by government assistance programs like SNAP and WIC.
Being able to use an unlocked bathroom on the same floor that their class is, instead of visiting the nurse which takes several minutes, will help menstruating students stay in class longer, she said.
They started with the superintendent, who took them seriously and invited them to share their concerns with the School Committee, as this is a budgetary issue.
It isn't only a budgetary issue, however; too many schools severely limit bathroom access during the school day, which is a policy issue:
She said students understand that teachers would prefer they use the bathroom in between classes, but that’s not always possible. It’s not safe to go an entire day without changing a pad or tampon due to the potential of Toxic Shock Syndrome, infections or rashes, she said.
“We need teachers and staff to support menstruating students,” Johnson said.
And sign of a thoughtful elected official? Being aware you're still learning:
Josh Amaral admitted he was ignorant to the issue and its scale, but said it’s a “no brainer,” and that like providing lunch, it’s an essential health need.
More of this: more of thinking about students' holistic health, more of taking student concerns seriously, more of remembering students are people, and more of learning during meetings.

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