Feminine hygiene dispensers to be implemented at Park

Sophomores advocate for period equity

Sophomores+Fiona+Shaack+and+Fiona+Long+working+together+March+19.+Along+with+their+group%2C+they+advocated+for+feminine+hygiene+dispensers+to+be+put+in+at+Park.

Elena Ortiz-Fishman

Sophomores Fiona Shaack and Fiona Long working together March 19. Along with their group, they advocated for feminine hygiene dispensers to be put in at Park.

By Elena Ortiz-Fishman, St. Louis Park High School

Last year in ninth grade Civics/Economics, students were tasked with finding problems in their community that they could improve. For current sophomore Fiona Shaack, period poverty was an important topic that she hoped to address. This year, the changer her group came up with will be brought into Park.  

“I really am a big advocate for women’s rights and it’s something I’m passionate about,” Shaack said. “I have been thinking about this (problem) prior to us knowing we had to do the project and so when the project came along, it felt like the perfect opportunity to do something about it.” 

Last school year, sophomore Fiona Long said she worked with her group to form an action plan in order to make a change and educate people.  

“We know St. Louis Park has a fair amount of underprivileged people, and the three of us are really lucky to have access to period products, but we did research on how it can negatively affect your education and so our idea was to provide free menstrual hygiene products at the school, so that kids wouldn’t have to worry about that,” Long said. 

According to Shaack, 36.1 percent of students at Park qualify for free or reduced lunch — statistics like these indicate how many students may be affected by period poverty, showing how important it is for there to be accessible femenine hygiene products at Park. 

“We came up with the idea of doing something around period poverty because we realize how it’s such a big problem, especially in our school and in our country and it just goes unnoticed,” Shaack said. “People probably don’t have access to these supplies and these products. Overall, we thought that the best solution would be to get some dispensers that dispense free products.” 

According to Long, forming a goal centered around Park felt more attainable and personal. 

“We didn’t think we could actually make a large scale change, so we asked, ‘what can we do specifically in St. Louis Park, in our school to make a tangible change?’ It’s easier to advocate with our school board and with our principal than it is to send letters to a senator,” Long said. “We just wanted to do something where we can see the impact in our own community.”

Going into the project, sophomore Katie Crocker said they were worried about the budget and mistreatment of the dispensers. In their research, they looked into different dispensers that would address these problems. 

“I’m just worried about vandalism, and if they do get vandalized at the school, it might be costly to replace them,” Crocker said. “Vandalism will probably be a big issue, and at the same time I know there have been a lot of situations where the schools facilities have been damaged.” 

In the past, the trial-run resulted in damages. A way to reduce the risk of vandalism and break-ins is making the dispensers free, which is something interim Principal Wendy Loberg is advocating for. 

“They had purchased (a dispenser) last year, and I believe it was put in a third floor bathroom. It got damaged right away, which breaks my heart, ” Loberg said. “Tom Bravo, who is the head of our facilities, said they’re ordering more and they will be installed as soon as they arrive. I hope they’re free, because I don’t want people thinking there’s money in them, which could cause concern for damage or break-ins.”

According to Shaack, this is only the first step, and she hopes to introduce more changes at Park in the future. 

“We are really thankful that we had this opportunity, and we’re gonna keep pushing, we’re gonna keep doing more. There’s so much more to be done, we want to try to get some more things into the health curriculum about period poverty because there’s so much stigma about talking about periods,” Shaack said.

Loberg said she prioritizes students voices, and if administration can provide what they need, it’s going to do it. 

“I hope that this is yet another example of the importance we put on the student voice; that when students have a concern, and they do research, and they come in with a proposal, they can let us know what they need,” Loberg said. “It’s wonderful and important that the school district’s administration do whatever they can to make it happen.”

This story was originally published on The Echo on March 24, 2021.