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School operations

Personal Hygiene

Including hand hygiene, menstrual hygiene, and sanitary items in schools

3  Preventing misuse of sanitary items

Schools are invited to use one or a combination of the below strategies to prevent vandalism and misuse of sanitary items. These strategies have been suggested by schools who have had success in addressing these issues and are provided as a guide only.

Schools may select strategies that best match the context of the school.

Reinforce expected behaviour

Provide specific feedback and encouragement for students demonstrating the desired behaviour in bathrooms. This involves explicitly teaching, supervising, interacting, and acknowledging correct behaviour, as well as correcting undesirable behaviour consistently.

Involve students in exploring ways to reduce vandalism and misuse of sanitary items

Engagement with students is the crucial step to encourage responsible and respectful behaviour.

Consider forming a student committee or including sanitary items as an agenda item at the next Student Representative Council meeting. This is a great opportunity for students from Grades 5 to 6 and 11 to 12 to improve and demonstrate their leadership skills. Make sure all students are represented, regardless of sex or gender.

You may also consider including school staff, administrators, school council members and a representative from the school cleaning or facilities team.

Other ways to engage students in promoting positive use of sanitary items include:

  • encouraging students to design imaginative, high-impact signage to inform students of the availability of sanitary pads and tampons
  • encouraging students to take responsibility for the hygiene products in their bathrooms, such as knowing how to report when tampons, pads, toilet paper or soap has run out
  • encouraging students to define what is meant by positive behaviour in relation to pads and tampons, and the consequences that follow when this is not adhered to.
  • encouraging students to act as upstanders against disrespectful behaviour and implement your schools Bullying Prevention and Student Engagement policy in a bathroom setting
  • enabling students to seek feedback from their peers about their school bathrooms and considering ways students can take positive ownership of the space. For examples visit 21 Amazing and Inspiring Makeover Ideas for School Bathrooms or The School Toilet Project to see how Cheltenham Girls' High School transformed their school bathroom.

When engaging with students about the sanitary products and menstrual health, it is important to be consistent with relevant Health and Physical Education programs and other curriculum, in particular Personal and Social Capability, for example in providing feedback on definitions of positive behaviour.

Positive actions schools can take to correct student behaviour related to vandalism and misuse once it has occurred

Bathrooms are largely an unsupervised environment. This makes responding to vandalism and misuse of sanitary items challenging for schools, especially when it is not always possible to identify the student(s) responsible. For this reason, schools should focus efforts on preventing vandalism and misuse through the steps in this Guidance.

Schools facing difficulties in addressing these issues may consider outlining consequences for minor and major incidents involving sanitary products in their Student Engagement Policy.

Minor incidents could include graffiti or scratchiti (with a sharp object), tampons and pads pulled out from dispenser and thrown on the floor, pads stuck to the mirror.

Major incidents could include incidents which result in significant financial cost for the school, such as plumbing issues as a result of tampons and pads inappropriately flushed down the toilet.

Consequences for incidents involving bathroom graffiti and vandalism will depend on the severity of the incident. Schools may consider:

  • placing emphasis on instructional responses, such as re-teaching the desired behaviour.
  • where the students responsible for the vandalism or misuse are known, logical consequences should follow. For example, the student could be responsible for removing graffiti from the dispenser or picking up sanitary items from the floor.
  • discuss with students issues of graffiti on government property and more pro-social ways to express creativity and individuality
  • referencing 'sanitary initiative' in appropriate policies such as the Student Code of Conduct, Student Engagement Policy and Bullying Prevention Policy.

Where incidents occur, schools must follow the Reporting and Managing School Incidents (including emergencies) Policy.

Other suggested responses schools can take to respond to vandalism and misuse

The existence of vandalism and misuse promotes further acts of vandalism and misuse, including graffiti. On the other hand, a well-maintained bathroom will likely encourage the students to treat it with respect.

Schools are encouraged to address bathroom maintenance issues as they arise using funding allocated through the annual Student Resource Package and to undertake maintenance in accordance with the Department’s Buildings and Grounds Maintenance Policy.

Infrastructure

School infrastructure can impact on school bathrooms location, layout, accessibility and ability to be monitored/supervised. If you think your bathroom infrastructure is limiting you from addressing vandalism concerns contact the Victorian School Building Authority at vsba@education.vic.gov.au

Guidance chapter on preventing misuse of sanitary items

Reviewed 02 June 2021

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