When middle school teacher Kristin Heavner shared a photo on social media of a colorful makeup bag filled with disposable menstrual products, she had no idea how people would react.
She was surprised when her post – which included a caption explaining that she creates menstruation care packs for her students – went viral.
It popped up on numerous blogs, and spiraled into a conversation about one of society’s most stigmatized topics.
Soon, Heavner’s students – particularly those who had been too embarrassed to ask for a menstrual product – opened up to learning about and discussing menstruation.
“Once kids were talking about it a little bit more, they seemed a lot more comfortable to just kind of walk in, walk to the back to take one, and walk out,” Heavner said in the latest issue of Teaching Tolerance magazine, which was released today. “There wasn’t a lot of hiding.”
Menstruation is one of society’s most stigmatized topics, but educators can help dispel the shame associated with this natural biological process while improving gender parity, according to the magazine.
Educators can remove the stigma surrounding menstruation not only by providing access to free menstrual products in schools – as Heavner does – but also by challenging inequitable school policies. These include dress codes that require khaki bottoms, rather than darker pants or skirts, that make it obvious when a person is bleeding. Educators can also normalize the subject through health education, according to the magazine.
Equity, Period., the cover story for the 2019 Spring issue of the magazine, guides teachers through the history of the menstrual equity movement, while providing tools to help them advocate for fairer policies and health education at their schools.
“The menstruation equity movement is about so much more than access to free products, it’s about taking away the stigma and establishing policies that appropriately address the needs of individuals who experience menstruation,” said Maureen Costello, director of Teaching Tolerance, a project of the SPLC. “Schools can help by educating all students about menstruation. This issue offers tips to help.”
Reading Together, another story in this edition of the magazine, explores how parent-led reading groups encourage children to read, think, and teach about social justice, and how they can reinforce important lessons taught at school.
Demystifying the Mind discusses how more schools are adding mental health to the required curricula, in order to reduce stigma and help young people better understand their own emotions, behaviors and brains.
Teaching in Solidarity highlights the upcoming Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action, which was organized by teachers in more than 20 cities across the country. The national movement seeks to educate students about police brutality against African Americans, positive contributions that black Americans have made to the world, and positive lessons about black people.
Bearing Witness to the Hard History of Guilford, another story in this edition, revisits the release of Teaching Tolerance’s Teaching Hard History: American Slavery report, one year later. The story highlights a New England middle school teacher and his students who traced the wealth that built their charming town back to slavery. The curriculum for the class project, which examined the stories of three enslaved people from Gilford, covers nine of the 10 “key concepts” that Teaching Tolerance recommends in the report for teaching American slavery.
Preserving a More Honest History offers tips on how teachers can better select field trips to historical homes and plantations that honor the enslaved people who lived and worked there.
Teaching Tolerance magazine, published three times a year, is the nation’s leading journal serving educators on diversity issues. It is distributed free of charge to more than 410,000 educators nationwide.