Porter Creek Secondary School guidance counsellor Joanne Seymour, photographed on Sept. 10, helped spearhead a program at the school which provides free menstrual products to students right in the washrooms. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Whitehorse high school provides free menstrual products to students

It’s an initiative that’s being adopted by schools across the country

A Whitehorse high school has been providing free menstrual products to students for more than three years now, something staff say is a success when it comes to breaking down barriers to education.

Porter Creek Secondary School (PCSS) has baskets in all its girls’ washrooms with pads, tampons, panty liners and other products that students can take whenever they need.

While menstrual products were previously available free of charge, guidance counsellor Joanne Seymour said in an interview Sept. 6 that students would have to go to the office to ask for them, a process that could be uncomfortable or awkward.

“So I thought, what could I do to just make it simpler?” she said.

Seymour said she spends about $500 per school year on menstrual products, varying the types and sizes of products based on what students want.

She also has extra clothing, like underwear or tights, on hand, “in case something were to happen at school where they needed a quick change.”

The reception from students, she said, has been positive.

“They love it, and sometimes if the baskets are empty, they will be like, ‘Ms. Seymour, you gotta go fill the baskets!’ or whatever,” Seymour said.

“And also, some of our girls, their home situation, you know, maybe financially it’s difficult for them to access the products so sometimes I’ll fill the baskets and they’ll take extra home or if they’re with me I’m like, ‘Here, take a few, take whatever you need.’”

It’s a policy schools across the country have been adopting.

British Columbia issued an ordered earlier this year that all public schools must provide free menstrual products by the end of 2019. The Toronto District School Board, the largest school board in the country, also announced this spring that its schools would be supplying products to students starting in the 2019-20 school year.

“When B.C. announced that change … we talked about that at our school council meeting, you know, a parent brought it up and said, ‘Are we doing that here? We should be doing that here,’” PCSS vice-principal Peter Giangrande told the News.

“(It was) an exciting opportunity for us to share that we’d been doing that for several years, so (parents) were excited to hear that, that we were ahead of the game, so to speak.”

The initiative, Giangrade said, was part of an effort by staff to be “always scanning for barriers” students may face, and proactively making changes to combat those barriers.

When it comes to menstrual products, not having access to them can lead to girls staying at home, missing school and falling behind, he explained.

“I mean, sometimes students won’t come and say, ‘Oh, geez, this is an issue for me, that, you know, I have my period and I need to go home,’” Giangrade said. “They’re not going to say that, but we need to scan the environment … and make those changes.”

Other things underway at PCSS include food and transportation programs. Seymour also stocks the baskets with shampoo, soap and lotion, and she’s created “couch-surfing kits” that students who aren’t staying at home can take.

“Some of these topics are still taboo in school culture across Canada,” Giangrade said, “but we’re trying to break that down and have those conversations, normalize those conversations so we can break down those barriers.”

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

In a Feb. 17 statement, the City of Whitehorse announced it had adopted the what3words location technology used for emergency response. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Three words could make all the difference in an emergency

City of Whitehorse announced it had adopted the what3words location technology

Jesse Whelen, Blood Ties Four Directions harm reduction councillor, demonstrates how the organization tests for fentanyl in drugs in Whitehorse on May 12, 2020. The Yukon Coroner’s Service has confirmed three drug overdose deaths and one probable overdose death since mid-January. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Three overdose deaths caused by “varying levels of cocaine and fentanyl,” coroner says

Heather Jones says overdoses continue to take lives at an “alarming rate”

Wyatt's World for Feb. 24, 2021.
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for Feb. 24, 2021.

Approximately 30 Yukoners protest for justice outside the Whitehorse courthouse on Feb. 22, while a preliminary assault hearing takes place inside. The Whitehorse rally took place after the Liard Aboriginal Women’s Society, based in Watson Lake, put out a call to action over the weekend. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Courthouse rally denounces violence against Indigenous women

The Whitehorse rally took place after the Liard Aboriginal Women’s Society put out a call to action

Susie Rogan is a veteran musher with 14 years of racing experience and Yukon Journey organizer. (Yukon Journey Facebook)
Yukon Journey mushers begin 255-mile race

Eleven mushers are participating in the race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. As the legislature prepares to return on March 4, the three parties are continuing to finalize candidates in the territory’s 19 ridings. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Nine new candidates confirmed in Yukon ridings

It has been a busy two weeks as the parties try to firm up candidates

David Malcolm, 40, has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm a police officer after an incident in Whitehorse on Feb. 18. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Man resists arrest, assaults officer

A Whitehorse man has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm… Continue reading

Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on Aug. 4, 2020. A site on Robert Service Way near the Alaska Highway has been selected as the future home of Yukon Energy’s energy storage project. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Site selected for Yukon Energy battery project

Planned to be in service by the end of 2022

The Yukon government and the Yukon First Nations Chamber of Commerce have signed a letter of understanding under the territory’s new procurement policy. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
First Nation business registry planned under new procurement system

Letter of understanding signals plans to develop registry, boost procurement opportunities

US Consul General Brent Hardt during a wreath-laying ceremony at Peace Arch State Park in September 2020. Hardt said the two federal governments have been working closely on the issue of appropriate border measures during the pandemic. (John Kageorge photo)
New U.S. consul general says countries working closely on COVID-19 border

“I mean, the goal, obviously, is for both countries to get ahead of this pandemic.”

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Start of spring sitting announced

The Yukon legislature is set to resume for the spring sitting on… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse City Council this week

Most Read