More girls will have access to free pads and tampons in 2018, thanks to laws passed in California and Illinois last year.
In California, some public schools must provide feminine hygiene products in at least half the bathrooms on campus — and give them out for free. The law covers schools with any combination of classes from grade 6 to grade 12, with at least 40 percent of the student population coming from low-income families.
Illinois passed a similar law, noting that “when students do not have access to affordable feminine hygiene products, they may miss multiple days of school every month.”
“When students have access to quality feminine hygiene products, they are able to continue with their daily lives with minimal interruption,” lawmakers wrote.
Here’s a look at other notable policies California, Illinois and other states enacted in 2017:
- Students in grades 7–12 in public schools must be offered education and training on human trafficking identification and prevention.
- If a parent was behind in their school lunch payments, some school districts would only give the child a snack — or nothing. Some officials actually reprimanded kids while they were in line for lunch — or stamped their hands — so the kids could remind their parents to pay up. A new law bars what is called “meal shaming.”
- All public schools are now required to test their water supplies for lead every year and let parents know if the water is considered not safe for drinking.
- Gov. Rick Scott (R) signed into law education funding measures that will, among other things, provide millions of dollars to help charter schools. Several school boards in the state have sued.
- The legislature voted to expand a highly controversial program called “Florida’s Best and Brightest Teacher Scholarships,” which gives big bonuses to teachers with high student SAT and ACT scores (and strong evaluations).
- In what critics call an assault on science education, a new law makes it easier for residents to object to the use of instructional materials in the public schools. Two obvious targets of the law: climate change and evolution.
- Republican Gov. Matt Bevin declared 2017 “The Year of the Bible.” In turn, the state passed a few laws to protect student’s religious expression.
- In 2015, a school attempted to remove a Bible verse spoken by the character Linus in a production of “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” This spurred a law that allows students to voluntarily express religious or political viewpoints in school assignments free from discrimination. It also says that religious and political organizations are allowed equal access to public forums on the same basis as nonreligious and nonpolitical organizations, and that recognized student organizations — including religious ones — should not be “’hindered … against in the ordering” of their own affairs, including the selection of leaders and members. Critics say the law gives school groups a legal right to discriminate against LGBTQ and other students.
- Another law requires that Bible literacy courses be offered in public schools. The Kentucky Board of Education must set administrative regulations “to establish an elective social studies course on the Hebrew Scriptures, Old Testament of the Bible, the New Testament, or a combination of the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament of the Bible.”
- The legislature approved a $75 million tax credit for people and companies donating to private school scholarships, a nod to school choice favored by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. Donors can receive a credit worth 75 percent of a donation with a maximum of $1 million.
- The state’s Center for School Safety is now authorized to make grants with public funds for specified security-related projects to schools and child care centers that are determined to be at risk of certain hate crimes or attacks. The schools can be public or private and can use the funding for additional security training needs, security personnel, security cameras, security-related technology, door-hardening, improved lightning, or other security-related upgrades.
- School bus drivers must now be at least 25 years old. In 2016, six children died in a school bus crash that occurred when, police said, a 24-year-old driver was speeding while taking a call on his cellphone.
- School districts buying new school buses must ensure that they are equipped with shoulder-to-lap seat belts.