CENTRAL TEXAS (KXAN) — Bastrop resident Kylie DeFrance’s postman came up to her, asking if she knew she had 50 packages scheduled for delivery. The following day, as dozens more packages arrived, and a separate postman asked if a child had accidentally ordered them.
In total, DeFrance received more than 300 boxes of pads, tampons and menstrual products — and the packages continue.
DeFrance is an eighth-grade teacher at a Title I charter school in east Austin, where many of her students qualify for free and reduced lunches. The financial means of being able to afford menstrual products does not extend to many of her students, who are often reliant on teachers to access pads and tampons.
Setting up an Amazon wish list, DeFrance posted on her neighborhood Nextdoor page to seek outside financial support. She regularly spends between $100-$200 each month on menstrual products without reimbursement.
“A lot of these kids don’t have the luxury of getting to have all the things that they need,” she said.
What she didn’t anticipate was hundreds of boxes of pads and tampons delivered to her front door, with messages of support from Bastrop community members.
“My house looks like an Amazon warehouse package store, like it’s insane,” she said.
With the surplus of supplies received, DeFrance said she has been able to craft up some period goody bags for students to take home with them, as well as sharing resources with other teachers. She said her hope is by normalizing periods — and giving students the products they need — they will be able to focus on their learning without their cycles being top of mind.
“I just want to make that something that they don’t have to think about or be stressed or worried about or uncomfortable,” she said. “You should be comfortable while you’re learning in school.”
From a financial standpoint, conversations surrounding period products have risen to the legislative level in recent years, with 24 states having removed sales taxes from menstrual products like pads and tampons. Here in Texas, the sales tax continues to be tacked onto these items, while other medical products — such as drugs and medicines, wound dressings like bandages and dietary supplements — are exempt.
A bill filed in Texas’ 87th Legislature to implement a sales tax exemption for certain menstrual products failed to make it to the floor for a vote.
"I think people sometimes think that removing a sales tax on menstrual products is insignificant," said Laura Strausfeld, founder and executive director of Period Law. "The truth is, though, if you think of the cost of these products, for people who can't buy them in bulk and who have to buy them as needed, it is significantly higher."
While Texas has not yet approved a sales tax exemption, DeFrance said she'll continue to do what she can at the local level to assist her students in need — with a few special neighborhood friends now helping out.
"When you are supporting a teacher's Amazon wish list, you're not just supporting the teacher — you are supporting 100-plus kids that love getting this support, especially from strangers," she said. "It's a really neat feeling. It's a cool feeling."