Mass Innovations, From The Beacon, September 2019

Following Town Meeting’s unanimous approval on May 23 of an article inspired by a column written by former Brookline High School student Sarah Groustra, Brookline will become the first municipality in the nation to provide free menstrual products in all of its municipal bathrooms, including town hall, the recreation center and libraries.

After reading Groustra’s column in the high school paper, Brookline Town Meeting Member Rebecca Stone wrote the warrant article along with Groustra and other Brookline students, who spoke on the issue during town meeting.

“The town sees initiatives spearheaded by high school students almost every year,” said Brookline Assistant Town Administrator Justin Casanova-Davis. “Brookline is a civically engaged community at all age levels.”

Ready access to menstrual products is considered both an economic and public hygiene issue. The new bylaw takes effect at the start of fiscal 2022.

The town is in the early stages of an anticipated two-year rollout process that is estimated to cost $50,000. Casanova-Davis said about $43,000 of the budget will be for capital expenses – the purchase of dispensers, signage, wastebaskets and installation. The other $7,000 will be for operational expenses and purchasing menstrual products. The program is expected to cost about $7,000 annually once it is up and running.

The Building Department is taking the lead, working with other departments in town on logistics.

“Being first at anything is sometimes not easy, but the town is committed to implementing this program on time and successfully,” said Town Administrator Mel Kleckner. “Town staff has already begun to work collaboratively to research various products and coordinate on where and when to start installing dispensers.”

The new bylaw does not apply to the school department, which already provides free access to products for students in nurse’s offices and will begin providing them in bathrooms at the high school. The Brookline School Committee has also initiated a process to develop a policy consistent with the town bylaw, as well as pending state legislation (H. 1959/S. 1274) that would apply to public schools.

Some municipalities, including Cambridge and Somerville, already provide free menstrual products in public schools, and efforts to do so are continuing in other municipalities in Massachusetts and across the country. The city of Boston announced a pilot program this spring to provide free products in nurse’s offices in all Boston public schools serving grades 6 through 12.

For more information, contact Brookline Assistant Town Administrator Justin Casanova-Davis at 617-730-2206, or jcasanovadavis@brooklinema.gov.

Written by