Friday, September 28, 2007

Periods and the School Cops

Feministing
September 28, 2007

Keeping schools safe through period-monitoring

As a security measure, a school in upstate New York, has banned students from carrying bags (backpacks, purses anything). Unless you're a menstruating girl, that is. Need some clarification? So did I.

A student at Tri-Valley High School was called out of class by a security guard during a school sweep last week to make sure no kids had backpacks or other banned bags.

Samantha Martin, 14, had a small purse with her that day.

That's why the security guard, ex-Monticello cop Mike Bunce, asked her The Question.

She says he told her she couldn't have a purse unless she had her period. Then he asked, "Do you have your period?"

Samantha was mortified.

Apparently, there was a school rumor (not an actual rule) that girls could only carry small bags or purses if they had their periods. So security guards starting pulling girls out of classes, or questioning them in the hallways, about whether they were menstruating or not. Real appropriate.

What's heartening, though, is that the students aren't taking this crap without a fight.

Girls have worn tampons on their clothes in protest, and purses made out of tampon boxes.

Some boys wore maxi-pads stuck to their shirts in support.

After hearing that someone might have been suspended for the protest, freshman Hannah Lindquist, 14, went to talk to {Principal Robert] Worden. She wore her protest necklace, an OB tampon box on a piece of yarn. She said Worden confiscated it, talked to her about the code of conduct and the backpack rule — and told her she was now "part of the problem."

Yeah, girls who don't want creepy security guards knowing about their cycles are huge problems. Soon, they'll expect things like basic respect and privacy rights!

h/t to Shannon.

10 comments:

The Filthy Titan said...

What the hell?!? Things in this country are nuts.

What kind of security measure is that, anyway? Security measures do not work. I will be the first to say this. My father was a police officer and time after time, he, his fellow policemen, and every piece of literature ever written by a cop stated that all security measures tend to do is annoy people. If someone really wants to bring a bomb in, they will figure out a way how.

So banning purses and the like is ridiculous. Moreover, the sheer embarassment of some school function lackey asking a girl a question that private is abhorrent; these are the sort of thing we should shoot people for.

To be entirely honest, I'm sickened. Children have no rights in this country, and this is just another example of an assault on their freedoms. While we have obtained freedoms for "women", we have yet to obtain them for girls, the ones who will become "women", just like boys do not have the freedoms of men. Or, apparently, the rights.

This is an invasion of privacy, causes emotional damage, could cause considerable defamation, and could even be construed as good old theft, what with all the protesters' items being taken away.

The lawsuits that could result from this will be vast and spanning; all my government training tells me " Man, there's some money to be made here."

Let's hope somebody takes them up on that. The only thing anyone listens to is money, and if we can hit these people hard enough in the checkbook, maybe we can make sure that these horrendous, discriminatory, and simply nasty actions stop.

kydemocrat said...

This is perhaps one of the most disturbing stories I have read recently. There is no excuse whatsoever for this kind of policy anywhere--- especially in a school.

The policy is appalling. Not only is it destined for failure, but the policy itself is humiliating for female students. Based on this policy, the security guard didn't even have ask a student if she was menstruating to humiliate her. Since the policy stated that only girls on their periods could carry handbags, carrying a purse was, in itself, announcing to the entire student body and faculty a very private matter. Talk about oppression!

There's no reason why such an action by the security guard does not warrant some form of sexual harassment claim. Both he, the school, and the Board of Education should be held accountable.

There's a warped notion in our society that such private matters should be public knowledge. For example, a lady in my hometown was telling a story about her granddaughter, who had received a new sports car on her sixteenth birthday. Her parents had made a bargain with her that if she was a virgin at age sixteen, they would get her a sports car. When her sixteenth birthday rolled around, her mother took her to the doctor to verify that she had followed through with her end of the bargain. Since she passed the "inspection", she received the car. I don't even know the girl, and I was infuriated on her behalf.

There is no excuse why such a young girl (or anyone, for that matter), should be subjected to these experience. There is a certain amount of privacy that all individuals should be able to expect. No one, be it school officials or even family members should be allowed to force these girls to divulge such private information.

feMENist said...

You would think the nature of this measure or preventative step or whatever you choose to call it would be enough for school officials to realize they are in the wrong, but this is obviously not the case. Sometimes I think people do stupid things to receive public attention, which is how I consider this.

If you set aside the nature of the school's actions and also the nature of the school's employee's, you are left with an event that can generalize the state of most women in America: pointed out and persecuted so much it is not even perceived as being that. In this particular case, the only group of people affected in a negative way is women, because they are the target of the measure. It points out a characteristic of women exclusive to woman and seeks to either punish/make public that part of her which is natural. Catherine McKinnon would have a field day here, she may make a good principal after the current one is fired.

freedom-is-slavery said...

I have a huge problem with this story. First of all, nothing in this article seems to be based on actual evidence. Too much is attributed to "a rumor was heard" type of reporting. Second, why would a security guard take action on what he believed to be was a rumor? I absolutely believe this could be one of those stories that has made an issue out of absolutely nothing.

Okay, now let's pretend the story is legitimate. The story says that this is not an actual school rule, but the guard just thought that it was rule based on rumor. The guard should be fired for the performance of his job based on a rumor about purses and periods. End of story.

The students should be proud of themselves for protesting the guard's unnecessary questioning because no institution should ever be allowed to take these types of actions. However, I believe all students should be allowed to bring "stuff" to school. Should this be true, and girls were allowed to bring purses when on their periods, this would result in girls who are on their periods making a silent statement that they are on their period. This would be traumatic for most teenage girls. Even if not traumatic, girls have a right to not announce they are on their periods.

Our country has become way too concerned with preventing the school massacre. The only way to prevent these incidences is to remove from society things that can cause death. That isn't going to happen, so we need to keep from freaking out in the name of protecting our students.

The guess who said...

I was taken aback after I read this article! I know when I was that age I certainly didn’t want anyone knowing it was “that time of the month” for me. I HATED if I were having a bad day and guys automatically assumed that because I was pissy… it was that time of the month for me. What an asshole of a principle! If I were any of those kids parents I would have that man fired and a huge lawsuit in his honor for violating privacy. Not allowing backpacks and purses I guess I can understand. I mean with the out break of school shootings in the past decade, who wouldn’t be weary of something like that. But only allowing girls to carry purses when it is that time of the month is still embarrassing. There is no hiding when a girl is menstruating at that school. Kudos to the boys who stood up for and with the girls who were against this supposed “not imposed” rule. If there was a rule like that when I was in jr. high school or high school none of the boys would stand up with the girls. They would sit back and laugh at the girls for being on the “rag.”

ladylawyer said...

This article struck me as almost one of the most bizarre and disturbing cases of privacy violation which I have ever heard about. What's worse is this situation which was described within this article was almost a tort in respect to its emotional harm to the girls... this is especially egregious behavior and a valid constitutional violation. As one of the other commenters mentioned however, this is all due to the sad fact that child rem do not possess much autonomy over themselves and their possessions in this country. Whereas i would normally disagree with this concept on the grounds that minors have no legal authority to consent and do not possess the capacity to make decisions like this... I will have to concede in saying that even this was taken way too far, because of its discriminatory nature towards these young girls--little boys were not forced to have their privacy invaded were they???

andsoitgoes said...

Oh my God... really, really! This is appalling to me. As a woman I know how annoying periods are anyway and to add to the already uncomfortable reality of bleeding for 5 days everyone including some random security gaurd gets to know.

This is rediculous, what civil rights do we give to our students. I think the right to have some privacy should be given. Its absurd to know that this happened in " the Free World"

Also, what business do they have stopping a peaceful protest? Was it in the dress code that students could not wear feminine products on their clothes? Perhaps after the students decided not to take the stupid changes made to the rules lying down the dress code had a few ammendments made to it.

I can't believe the lack of privacy given to young women... guesse becuase they can't vote or buy alcohol they have no rights at all. Stupid thats all I have to say.

whitney said...

Apparently I don’t feel quite as strongly about this issue as other people. I mean, yea, it’s wrong to question girls like that, it is a violation of their privacy, and I’m sure it’s embarrassing. More than anything, though, I was really glad to read about how so many of the students pulled together to fight against it. At least the students realize that something wrong was going on, and hopefully they will be able to convince school administrators of that. It’s funny to think about how uncomfortable all those security guards must have felt when everywhere they looked they saw tampons and pads. It seems to me that if the principal has no problem with guards questioning girls about their periods, he shouldn’t have a problem with actually being face to face with girls wearing feminine products. I mean, the guards wanted to know right? Now they don’t even have to ask. I think it’s so funny. Otherwise, I can’t believe that this rumor was actually school policy. Surely they wouldn’t do that. But then again, I guess it doesn’t really matter if it was school policy if it was being implemented in this way regardless.

Brandy01 said...

I may be a little late in commenting, but I'm agreeing with Whitney in that students are pulling together to support this issue. I'm glad that high school boys can actually think about things like maxi pads without laughing hysterical or being grossed out.

While having a period is a natural part of life and is something I'm learning as I grow older to be less embarrased about, it is still a personal issue and the entire issue is privacy rights. I still don't like telling my doctor when he asks. I always feel like going "Why is this any of your business!?" Unfortunatly, these girls would still have people notice that they were on their periods if they had a purse, but they do not have to be questioned in this manner.

I also noticed that this doesn't seem to be based on really sound evidence...but I have a larger agenda here that I would like to title: Girls not wearing bikinies!

To me this reeks of the idea that if women and men are equal then women and men should have the same restrictions. Well, I'm not sure if anyone has ever noticed, but boys are often allowed to take their shirts off and girls aren't. And I'm sure the response to this article is that boys can't carry purses either. The point I'm trying to make here is that restrictions are places on both sexes if they harm girls but not if they harm boys. Restrictions will make sure to say that girls must wear shirts, but restrictions would never say that only girls may carry bags. I'm sorry to inform the school officials about a little biology in relation to getting your period. There are a lot of different factors that regulate cycles and anything such as medication, illness, or stress can cause a cycle to be thrown off, so a girl could get her period at any random time her body feels like it and most of the time (unless it is habitual) its completly normal. So I guess until boys are allowed to carry purses as well, girls can never go topless.

In conclusion, I'm sure that there is some compromise that this school could come too. Girls may carry purses (under a certain size) that must be inspected by a female teacher at the beginning of the school day. This would be time consuming hopefully to the point where girls who do not need to carry a purse would not carry on every day, and maybe it might inconvience a few teacher, but women should stick together and help out these young girls who should not have to reveal whether or not they are on their period to some strange man.

Anonymous said...

Keith-
Wow I cannot believe this is allowed to go on in a public school. If I were a parent and this was going on at my daughters school I would be down there that day if all goes to plan in my life, if it were a few years from now, I would take legal action to put a stop to this. I would even go as far as to say I might even take my child out of the school. First of all being in high school is hard enough, especially for girls and to only be allowed to carry a purse that signifies she is menstruating is ridiculous. To have some police officer come up to a young girl while she is carrying a purse and ask her if she is on her period is completely inappropriate and I would fly off the handle if it happened to my daughter. This is a simply privacy rights issue to me. If you’re going to do something like this set up metal detectors or something. Do not create a situation where high school girls have bulls eye on them by making to where a girls must be on her period to carry a purse. This law is so ridiculous and intrusive and do not see how it could be upheld.