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WELLNESS: Providing Period Product Equity in our Middle Schools
By Stuart Phillips, CHCCS Communications Specialist
How can we be thinking and acting differently to make student-supportive changes in our schools? Interim Culbreth Middle School nurse, Michelle Roscher, has only been working in Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools since August 2022, but since then has helped introduce the new Period Equity Project. Developed by Roscher and funded by the Public School Foundation (PSF), the Period Equity Project is an initiative that uplifts both the Creating a Culture of Safety and Wellness and Social Justice Action Core Values of the Strategic Plan 2027. Thanks to the generous nature of the PSF grant, it will serve all four middle schools.
“When I started this position [at CMS], I identified that a lot of kids are coming into the health office for period products,” Roscher said. “But it took time for students to leave their classrooms, come to the health office, go to the restroom and then return to class. “I looked into the issue, wondering how most schools handle it,” she said.
Roscher explored whether they might be eligible for free products locally. She said, “In the past, companies often sent their products to schools for free, but with the pandemic, supply and demand has been unpredictable.” Most of the nonprofits she found had a six-to-nine month waiting list. A national shortage also led to increased prices, making period equity even more of a challenge.
After seeking feedback at the school and district-level, Roscher reached out to PSF. As luck would have it, in December a donor came forward with a $2,000 donation for supplies to be divided across the middle schools. Roscher said, “PSF was so generous that, with this grant, we are able to spread the wealth and are able to supply each middle school in CHCCS with approximately 800 classroom packs to help increase dignity around menstrual needs and reduce period poverty for middle schoolers in the district.”
“I went on Amazon and did my research. I wanted to find the best products that also allowed us to impact the most students possible with the generous funds we were given." Roscher said, “I didn’t originally intend to make packets – I had planned to just put pads in classrooms. The more I thought about it, I wondered how I would package it so a kid can take it easily and privately.” In the end, she put black plastic packets in a small container in each classroom. “In choosing the design for packets, I also wanted to make it friendly for our non-binary students here,” Roscher said.
Once the supplies arrived, Roscher began assembling the 3,200 packs at home, with the help of her mother. She reached out to the other middle school nurses to let them know they’d be receiving their supplies.
McDougle Middle School (MMS) Nurse Paul Schwartz, who joined MMS in November 2022, said there were already period products available to students in the school’s Student Services office. Products are easy for students to take and go in decorative cases, each with two pads. Schwartz said, “We have started rolling out the new Period Packs in classrooms on a voluntary basis, hoping to get a groundswell of support among teachers and students, to have them placed in more classrooms and other places students might need them (e.g. the library, the gym, etc.)”
Phillips Middle School Nurse Tori Toles will be convening with a small group of 8th grade girls soon to discuss distribution of the period packs, as well as strategies for raising awareness of the resource.
School Nurse Leigh Ann Dasher at Smith Middle School (SMS) said they have a student club, F.A.V.E. (Feminism, Activism, Vibes, Empowerment), that targets period product equity, among other issues. FAVE held a period product drive that ended just before the winter break and was quite successful. This is great for our students who have been asking for easier access to period products,” said Dasher. “I hope the FAVE group will help with the distribution and messaging of the new period product packets.”
Roscher would love to see a student club at CMS eventually. “It would be great to have a club that not only collects menstrual supplies but also provides advocacy for kids who are younger, maybe not comfortable asking about cramps or things like that – it would be great to have a place where kids who aren’t secure yet and don’t want to talk to a school nurse can still have a resource at the school.”
“It’s been exciting to see the response,” Roscher said. “I restocked classrooms yesterday and found that in the short three weeks this project has been active, over 40 students have utilized this resource.”
In order to continue this program at the four middle schools, CHCCS can use your help. To donate products, please reach out to the school nurse or to the school social worker at your school. To make a monetary donation, please donate to PSF and note that it's for the Period Equity Project. Roscher’s next goal is to be able to also help provide products for students to take home with them.
CHCCS District Headlines stories are written on a regular basis by the CHCCS Division of Communications, with assistance from a network of school-based “storytellers” who share tips and ideas throughout the school year. The goal is to share real-world examples of the CHCCS Strategic Plan in action. Know about a story worth telling from your school? Contact the CHCCS Communications team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo Credit: Roscher (CMS) and Dasher (SMS) submitted pictures from their schools. Please note the “menstruation crustacean” hiding among the products in the picture from SMS (spoiler alert - it’s a heating pad).