By The Associated Press

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Rhode Island lawmakers have passed legislation that requires all public schools to provide feminine hygiene products at no cost to students.

The legislation approved Friday says that starting in the 2022-2023 academic year, schools teaching grades five through 12 shall make feminine hygiene products available in all gender-neutral and female bathrooms.

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“We all know how necessary feminine hygiene products are, but what many people do not realize, and I see this as a long time educator, is that a lack of access to these products can cause students to miss crucial school days,” bill sponsor Sen. Valarie Lawson, a Democrat from East Providence, said in a statement. “These products are a daily necessity to so many students and just as schools provide toilet paper for the bathrooms, these products should also be readily accessible for our students in need.”

State Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee, a Democrat from South Kingstown, was the House sponsor of the bill.

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“If soap and paper towels are available in bathrooms, so should feminine hygiene products, it’s as simple as that,” she said.

The legislation now heads to the governor’s desk.

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