New Jersey schools will be required to provide free menstrual products for grades six through 12 under a new law Gov. Phil Murphy signed Wednesday.
“When students can’t access the menstrual products they need for their reproductive health, the potential stress and stigma too often distracts them from their classes or forces them to skip school entirely – leading to social and academic repercussions that no one should have to face,” Murphy said in a statement.
The law will affect roughly 1,400 schools across the state, which have about 350,000 female students in grades six through 12. Menstrual products are expected to be available in at least half of the women’s and gender-neutral bathrooms in each school.
The state will cover the cost of the menstrual products, which it estimates to fall between $1.8 million and $3.5 million in the first full school year.
The law also requires New Jersey’s health and education departments to periodically assess whether the needs of menstruating students are being met. If deemed necessary, the department can expand access to free menstrual products to grades below six.
The bill passed the Democrat-led legislature nearly unanimously, with only one “no” vote. Murphy, who also signed a bill in 2019 requiring free menstrual products for female inmates in the state correctional system, said this new bill is meant to “promote equity at every level.”
This stride for the Garden State comes as more information about “period poverty” in schools reaches legislative desks across the country. A 2021 “State of the Period” study from Thinx & PERIOD (a partnership between a period solutions company and a nonprofit group) found that nearly a quarter of students have struggled to afford period products in the U.S.
New Jersey joins at least 10 other states and the District of Columbia in requiring menstrual products in schools, many of which have reported positive results. According to the Alliance for Period Supplies, New York City schools reported a 2.4% increase in attendance following passage of law requiring free period products for students. Some of the most recent states to pass similar laws include Alabama, Delaware and Utah.
“This initiative will not only provide needed support to many school-aged kids with periods, it can also help normalize periods, help people overcome potential embarrassment or distress from not having what they need, and can support positive self-esteem,” said New Jersey Health Commissioner Dr. Kaitlan Baston in a statement.