Published Nov. 10, 2022
By MAGGIE JOHNSTON
When California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill in October 2021 that mandated free menstrual products in men’s, women’s and gender-neutral public school restrooms, he could not expect that new forms of vandalism would present themselves.
While the Menstrual Equity Act of 2021 is meant to aid students and faculty in the accessibility of the products and remove the anxieties that surround one’s cycle, some Carmel High School students have used the prevalence of these commodities as a way to commit property damage.
A common way that students have carried out vandalism is through the creating and flushing of tampon bombs, which consist of multiple tampons bound together with a writing utensil—typically a highlighter—in the center. These bombs have then been flushed down into the pipes to cause build up or even complete blockage in the septic system.
The first appearance of the infamous tampon bomb was during the first home football game in the boys’ locker room, where the plumbing became backed up and unusable. With some investigation, it was discovered that tampon bombs were the culprit.
Some upperclassmen place the brunt of the blame on underclassmen.
“I see how it is important to have this in the bathrooms, but I still think that the underclassmen will ruin it,” says senior John Dinkel when discussing the vandalism. “They should not be unsupervised with something like that.”
Lisa Brazil, secretary to the CHS principal, performs many tasks on campus, one of which includes the management of construction or physical adjustments on campus.
“Because of usage and damage over the years, the main sewer line through campus was torn out and replaced with brand new pipe over the summer,” Brazil explains.
Yet within the first two weeks of school, blockages in the new pipes caused three different overflows of sewage grates, causing further health and sanitary hazards thanks to the reoccuring appearance of tampon bombs. Since then, there has been less vandalism by tampon bombs.
“It is a great thing to have in the bathroom for people that need it,” junior JT Maxon says regarding the sanitary product dispensers. “I am not surprised to know that this has caused problems, but I think the good that it does outshines the bad.”
The CHS administration has chosen to take preventative rather than punitive measures to approach the acts of defacing school property, calling upon CHS leadership students to help bring attention to this problem in a student-to-student manner.
“It’s not going to be the admin team and the campus supervisors that are going to make the change,” assistant principal Debbi Puente says. “We are not enough.”
Maddie Gallagher, senior class spirit representative, has worked with a group of students to brainstorm ideas to make change.
“We have already gone to fifth period classes and talked about the recent vandalism,” explains Gallagher.
Leadership members have been creating informative videos and brainstorming activities that will further educate students on the damaging and costly effects that vandalism has on campus. Leadership’s ultimate goal is to educate the entire student body of the group of custodians who work to pick up the campus and encourage fellow students to empathize.
“It is within our power as staff and as students to make our school inviting, and we administrators need to work in partnership with students to make a difference and change our culture surrounding vandalism,” Puente says.
CHS administrators and Associated Student Body leaders hold the belief that effective change can be made through discussing the matter openly among peers, respected student leaders and staff alike.
“Our input is important because students look up to people in leadership and come to us for information,” Gallagher says. “We need to set a good example.”