Tampons in kindergarten bathrooms for boys should be peak insanity, but there’s more to come

Meet the “Menstrual Dignity Act” which requires every school in Oregon to offer free supplies for “menstruating students” in both boys and girls bathrooms in elementary school.  The act is part of a broader set of equity initiatives covering everything from mathematics to CRT.  Meanwhile, the Biden Administration is taking these ideas national with 90 equity programs across the federal government funded by the taxpayer.

Last week, we learned that Oregon governor Kate Brown signed the “Menstrual Dignity Act,” into law, which requires K-12 schools to install tampon dispensers in boys bathrooms throughout the state.  The act was supported by a “Menstrual Dignity for Students Toolkit” which contains instructions to implement the policy, some of which need to be read to be believed, even aside from the insistence on the new “menstruating persons” parlance of the day rather than just female students, young women, or girls.  Thus, the overall goal is to help “students participate actively in classes and school activities by alleviating some of the economic strain and experiences of shame that are often barriers for menstruating students accessing their education.”  Of course, these barriers disproportionally affect “students of color, students experiencing disabilities, and students experiencing poverty,” and potential trans-students described in a litany of varieties are also a major concern.  “Importantly, this law affirms the right to menstrual dignity for transgender, intersex, nonbinary, and two spirit students by addressing the challenges that some students have managing menstruation while minimizing negative attention that could put them at risk of harm and navigating experiences of gender dysphoria during menstruation. Research also connects gender-affirming bathroom access to supporting student safety at school.”

The toolkit continues to define the four pillars of “menstrual dignity” including the obvious, privacy, access, and education, and the not so obvious, inclusivity, which must address “cultural responsiveness” and be “gender affirming.”  As they put it, “inclusivity means including, affirming, and honoring differences in how communities learn about, access, and make decisions about health. This means that transgender, intersex, non-binary, and two spirit students need to be affirmed in their access to products.” Does anyone know what affirming in access actually means in this context? A positivity coach stationed in every bathroom to help students along? The act ultimately mandates that all schools shall have a free dispenser in every student bathroom, and that these dispensers must be properly stocked and maintained in at least two of these bathrooms in every building.  This includes both the boys and the girls rooms, even in schools with students aged 10 and under, as in those who have not reached puberty and do not menstruate yet.  Further, even schools with kindergarten classes must stock a range of products that are “culturally responsive,” as in a “Variety of products is also an important culturally responsive practice, which honors a range of values and beliefs around menstrual product use.”  Special attention must be paid to trans-students in this honoring and affirming, again students as young as five years old, because “Students who are experiencing gender dysphoria may be comfortable and safe only when products can be accessed within a single stall,” meaning a single boy’s room stall in an elementary school.

The Oregon Department of Education highlights “The Menstruation Station” at the Falls City School District as a success story.  In 2018, the district discovered that “students were losing class time, leaving early, and missing school altogether because of unaddressed menstrual discomforts, including premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms and not having menstrual products for use at school” and embarked on a campaign based on the “menstrual dignity of students.”  The campaign was supported by Planned Parenthood and the United Way’s Red Cart Projects, and together, “They bought cabinets to stock with a variety of products, coordinated a ‘shopping day’ where high school students could take the products they would need during the summer, hosted a pizza party and information session to learn about menstrual health and to address student questions, and created a space for anonymous questions and answers in bathrooms.”  Lynn Bailey, a teacher and special programs director for the district claimed “students got really good about being open to talk about their periods.”

Meanwhile, back in the actual academic world, Oregon’s average test scores are declining and have been for some time.  In 1998, 78% of students performed at or above the NAEP basic standard in eighth grade, but by 2019 that number had fallen to 73%.  They didn’t meet the reporting standards for black students that year, but Hispanics were only at 60% and Native Americans at 67%.  Overall, Oregon schools perform middling at best; better than 16 states at the bottom of the barrel including California and Texas, worse than 9 including my home state of New Jersey.  Despite the decline, Oregon is choosing to focus valuable resources and time on “menstrual dignity” rather than classroom performance, and yet this is only one part of their overall equity initiatives.  In September 2020 the Oregon School Boards Association Board of Directors unanimously adopted a broad set of equity goals.  The objective was to make them a “national leader” by promoting “cultural diversity” and “educating school leaders” and “combating racial bias and hate speech.”  “I feel the intent and I feel like we are going forward in the right direction,” said board member Sonja Mckenzie. “I’m excited about the work ahead.”  Apparently, that work includes a wide variety of Critical Race Theory and equity materials for educators, you know the stuff that progressives claim isn’t taught in public schools.  

Since then, the state has adopted a new equity approach to teaching mathematics.  The new approach is now officially taught in schools and is rooted in the idea that “Power dynamics shape teaching and learning mathematics. These dynamics can be seen through questions such as, ‘whose voice is heard in the classroom?’, ‘who is able to author mathematical ideas?’, ‘where is mathematical authority located?’, and even regarding how mathematics is seen as useful by students. Students need to experience their power as mathematical thinkers and do-ers, thus requiring us to decenter our own thinking and center theirs.”  How that can happen when mathematical authority is generally perceived as providing the right answer is left entirely unsaid, but at the center of this agenda is a need to change the way students are assessed for mathematical proficiency, suggesting that getting the right answer simply isn’t enough anymore.  Instead, educators are asked to provide “opportunities for students to revise reasoning and demonstrate understanding in multiple forms over the course of a unit.”  These new forms include integrating “student choice” and a “self-assessment” that can “build agency and connect mathematics with student interests” because nothing says you’re good at math like telling yourself that’s the case.  By the way, I am excellent at writing blog posts as well and believe I should have millions of readers.

Alas, Oregon is not alone:  Under the Biden Administration taxpayers are currently funding 90 some odd equity programs, known as “Equity Action Plans” to provide a “whole of government response” in the fight against “entrenched disparities” and the “unbearable human costs of systemic racism.”  These programs affect almost every government agency, from the State Department to the Smithsonian.  The State Department, for example, plans to embark on an international campaign to raise awareness of gender and equity issues around the world by focusing on “identity” and “intersections of marginalization.”  Moreover, they plan to do this even knowing it will likely fail because of “societal norms” and the “unwillingness to cede power by dominant groups” in much of the world.  The Environmental Protection Agency no longer plans to rely exclusively on peer reviewed science either.  Instead, they will leverage the new field of “community science” from tribal leaders and other interest groups to highlight topics such as environmental racism in their decision making.  Think of it as the environmental version of Oregon’s math equity approach.  Even the Department of Agriculture is in on the action, promising to “continue to integrate civil rights and equity in the design of its policies and programs that span the entirety of its mandate, including areas such as food security, nutrition, natural resources and conservation, rural development, and more.”

The radical Center for Progressive Reform is cautiously optimistic.  “For the most part they say the right things,” explained James Goodwin, a senior policy analyst.  “But you know words on paper are very different from action. What’s most important is that an agency’s culture changes to incorporate a lot of these things.  A lot of these things can be relegated to a check-the-box exercise which doesn’t make a major impact in the day-to-day actions of an agency, or it can be fully integrated into an agency’s DNA.”  How deep does the Center for Progressive reform believe this integration needs to go?  They advocate the government accept public comments on their plans in the form of “hip hop music, graphic novels, collages or street art” instead of formal statements.  The goal of these programs is to change everything:  Later this year, the Biden government will announce their plans to include equity and social justice “costs” in federal policy.  Advocates liken it to the Americans with Disability Act, where the installation of a wheelchair ramp costs a company something but the benefits to those with disabilities that can enjoy access are incalculable.  In their view, racial and gender equity should be considered in a similar manner.  “The definition they put forward is basically saying: Going forward from here things are going to be procedurally fair and they’re going to be free from bias in the implementation of our programs,” noted Kyle Moore, an economist at the Economic Policy Institute.  “That’s an important step but removing bias is not enough to close these [racial] gaps that we’re seeing,” he added.  “There needs to be a policy of redressing past harms. That may mean developing policies that disproportionally benefit groups that have been disadvantaged in the past, not simply providing relief for those groups, but a leg up.”

In other words, this insanity is just the beginning:  The real plan is to create programs that benefit one group over another, dividing Americans by race, gender, or other factors, and then choosing which groups to reward with government largesse.  Ultimately dignity, menstrual or otherwise, will have nothing to do with it.

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