Editorials, Opinion

The Good, the Bad and the Stupid Pt. 4

Good: SB 489, establishing that “All county boards of education shall make feminine hygiene products, as defined in this section, available to female students, attending public school, in grades 3 through 12. The boards shall make the feminine hygiene products available at no cost and in a discrete manner to students in the identified population when the female students do not otherwise have access to such feminine hygiene products.” It has already passed the Senate and is now being considered in the House of Delegates.

We give SB 489 two thumbs up. There are few things in life as embarrassing and stressful as being in a public place without a pad or tampon when your period hits — or overwhelms whatever preparations you had already made. Plus, feminine hygiene products are expensive — partially due to being subject to a “pink tax” (price increase simply because the product is marketed to women). When the household budget is tight, pads and tampons become a luxury that either has to be stretched as much as possible or forgone altogether. Then, there are also situations in which a child may be displaced — living with a friend or foster family — and may be too embarrassed to ask for what they need.

Our only concern with SB 489 is the vagueness of “when the female students do not otherwise have access.” Does it mean the poor child who was caught unawares at school and didn’t bring the necessary supplies? Or does it only mean kids whose families can’t afford feminine products (perhaps identified by whether the child is in the free or reduced lunch program)? We’d like to see the language made clearer — preferably to make feminine hygiene products available to anyone who needs them while they are at school.

Bonus Good: SB 121, creating the Student Journalist Press Freedom Protection Act. In essence, SB 121 protects high school/college student journalists and their faculty advisors from retribution or censorship by the school. However, it does not exclude them from the legal standards that apply to all journalists (libel/slander, invasion of privacy, obscenity, violating the law).

We support SB 121 as affirming the First Amendment rights to free speech and free press. Sometimes student journalists find unflattering information about the institution that sponsors them; this bill would allow them to move forward without fear, and it prevents schools from quashing stories they don’t like.

Since we dedicated an entire editorial to a “bad” bill yesterday, we’ll skip straight to “stupid” today.

Stupid: SB 535, stating that “any child whose parents present a letter stating that a child cannot be vaccinated for religious or philosophical reasons shall be granted an exemption” from the standard vaccines required for enrollment in school or day care.

Unfortunately, the anti-vax movement has been steadily gathering steam and not enough level-headed people are speaking up to force legislatures across the nation to pump the breaks. Childhood vaccinations are the reason diseases that killed kids just a few decades ago are now considered eradicated. Polio — a distant nightmare. Measles — the equivalent of the monster under the bed. Mumps — what even are those?

Except now they are making a comeback. There have been multiple measles outbreaks across the U.S. since 2019 — but West Virginia hasn’t had a confirmed measles case since 2009. Last year saw America’s first case of polio since 1993 — an unvaccinated young man living in an under-vaccinated community in New York contracted polio and ended up paralyzed. Mumps had been steadily on the decline from 1967 to 2015, but there was a large outbreak in 2006 among an under-vaccinated religious community in New York. Nationally, cases have been increasing since 2016. West Virginia, on the other hand, hasn’t had more than two confirmed mumps cases in any given year since the 1980s.

Anti-vaxxers are a small but vocal minority. We cannot let them put the rest of us in danger.