Tanya Hill Interviews Dr. Ray Heipp
August 14th, 2023
Get ready to be inspired as Tanya Hill (ForeverFresh) sits down with an esteemed 30-year administration veteran, Dr. Ray Heipp (School Health), to discuss an urgent issue: period poverty and incontinence in schools. Learn about this widespread problem and gain insight into ForeverFresh’s innovative solutions. Take action now – click to watch this powerful video and join us in ending period poverty.
Dr. Raymond T. Heipp, is a 30+ year veteran of administration and classrooms for general education and special needs students. He has designed many support programs for various schools, Head Start/Early Childhood Programs, Mental Health programs, and facilities. His expertise in assistive technology, sensory items, and creating holistic spaces has enabled him to design updated approaches when working with students of all abilities as well as adults. He currently works with schools and other institutions in classroom, sensory room, and specialized room design as well as consulting on how to best support all individuals in workspaces and which assistive technology and sensory items might be most appropriate in various situations and approaches to working with all individuals in various capacities. He has been called upon in the last few years to assist in the application of mental health supports within these environments as well.
Dr. Heipp firmly believes that everyone, no matter what their ability, has a voice (or spirit) and deserves a chance to succeed. He suggests that we never doubt their abilities!
[00:00:00] – Tanya Hill:
Hello, I’m Tanya Hill. I’m President of Forever Fresh. I’d like to welcome you to our podcast today. We are going to have a conversation with Dr. Ray Heipp. Dr. Heipp, thank you for joining us. And before we get started, I would just like to read a little of your bio. Dr. Heipp is a 30-year veteran of administration in classrooms for general education and special needs students. He has designed many support programs for various schools: Head Start, early childhood programs, mental health programs, and facilities. His expertise in assistive technology, sensory items, and creating holistic spaces has enabled him to design updated approaches when working with students of all abilities as well as their child’s. He currently works with schools and other institutions in classroom, sensory room, and specialized room design, as well as consulting on how to best support all individuals in workspaces and which assistive technology and sensory items might be most appropriate in various situations and approaches to working with all individuals in various capacities. He’s been called upon in the last few years to assist in the application of mental health supports within these environments as well. Today, we’re going to talk a little bit about period poverty and incontinence with children in schools because you also are with School Health, which works with a lot of schools all across the country.
Doctor Heipp, welcome, and thank you so much for joining me today.
[00:01:58] – Dr. Ray Heipp:
Tanya, it is my honor to be here today. This is such an important topic, and I’m so glad that we’re starting this discussion because, unfortunately, in too many of our schools, the discussion is not being had. And we need to make sure that there’s an awareness and that and what you do is just so admirable because it’s helping all of our kids.
[00:02:23] – Tanya Hill:
I have to say, when I developed the Forever Fresh disposable undergarments, I think it was back in 1994, I had no idea the impact that having a product like this would have on adults and children dealing with urinary incontinence and… And when we talk about menstruation, and you correct me, Doctor, if I’m wrong, menstruation is also another form of incontinence.
[00:02:52] – Dr. Ray Heipp:
It is to a degree. And so it’s very important as we go through things, one of the issues that comes up and has always come up, this is not something that’s brand new, but there was always this taboo about speaking about issues of feminine hygiene within the school setting. And as we move to the 60s and 70s and into the 80s, we saw some districts start to change. We saw some of the laws start to change, but frankly, not fast enough. And it’s interesting because at the very beginning of this, you mentioned about period poverty. An interesting study was done right after the pandemic. Do you know that one in every three young ladies in the US cannot or feels uncomfortable attending any after-school activities. That’s sports, that’s clubs, that’s being able to be part of the drama team, so many things. And that’s part of their mental health as well. All of these things tie together. And that’s why it’s so important to have this overall discussion. There should be nothing that is frightening for us to speak about because it’s all part of health.
[00:04:13] – Tanya Hill:
Oh, I certainly agree. And when you talk about statistics, as I got more and more involved in working with School Health and with other distributors and talking to students, I was amazed at the other statistics that I came across. There are globally 500 million people, if we can believe that, who lack access to menstrual products and hygiene facilities. Another study says that 16.9 million people who menstruate in the US are living in poverty, and two-thirds are low-income women in the US. That’s a huge number for us to have to deal with. I know that when I first started the company years ago, I would go into the schools and talk with teachers about this topic about administration. Obviously, if a young girl has a period accident, she needs clean underwear as well, which is why I was there. But what I discovered that teachers, this was prior to HIV, teachers would tell me: “Oh, yeah, a girl had an accident. I would take her in the restroom. I would wash her underwear out, dry them, give her some pads and take her back in class.” Well, post-HIV, nobody’s touching anyone. We have to come up collectively with a solution that will allow young girls to feel like they can attend class and not have to miss because they have a period, which is something normal.
[00:06:03] – Dr. Ray Heipp:
And that’s so important, and again, people don’t realize that, especially for the populations that you just described within those percentages, the young girls do have a tendency to avoid going to school. And what the research tells us is missing just one day per month actually decreases the opportunity for a child to graduate by 14 %. Now if they missed two days, it gets even crazier. Now you’re down to 40 % chance that they won’t graduate. Now imagine this poor young lady not understanding, not having those supports in place, always feeling I have to be out of school several days per month. That’s not right to her and it’s not helping our culture as a whole.
[00:06:57] – Tanya Hill:
Well, I have, again, in my years of working with the schools, I’ve heard some real unbelievable stories, but they’re true. I remember an instance, speaking with one of the teachers who said she had a student, which by the way, let’s deal with reality. We have kids now that are starting their periods as young as nine years old. These kids don’t even know what a period is. I spoke with a teacher who had a student, I’m sorry, it was a counselor. The young child ran into the office, hysterical. They didn’t know what was wrong with her. She didn’t know what was wrong. And when they finally got her to calm down, she said, I’m dying. The teacher asked and the counselor asked her: “Well, what’s wrong?” And she said: “I’m bleeding.” But this was a nine year old who had no idea what was happening to her body. Having something there for her, even at nine years old, this is our world and our reality. And we know their programs and policies for college students, but this is happening to nine year old. And so the schools have to be prepared to deal with that.
[00:08:21] – Dr. Ray Heipp:
You’re absolutely right. All too often there’s this assumption that, Oh, you know what? We’ll just do this type of education to students at the middle school or even high school levels. And we are then cutting out that significant portion of the population that may be maturing more quickly. And on the female side, they always mature more quickly physiologically and mentally too. But that creates a secondary issue. And you just described it so perfectly there, but so frighteningly too. Here’s a young girl that doesn’t know better and is making assumptions, again, putting those stressors on her, on her body because she just doesn’t understand and needs that support, doesn’t need to be told, Well, go home and talk this over with your parents. What I’m saying.
[00:09:21] – Tanya Hill:
Is this? Let’s share with our audience too. Every woman that listens to this will have a story. Actually, we’d love to hear your story. But I’ve talked to so many women who have had that period accident in school their first time, and they are traumatized to this day. I mean, people that are 50, 60 years old can tell you what happened and how they felt on that day. It is truly traumatizing. And I don’t think people really realize, and I would have to say, especially men, what that does to a young woman who has that accident and has to deal with people teasing her, especially young boys who certainly don’t have a clue at that age of what’s going on. And this trauma stays with women all of their life.
[00:10:17] – Dr. Ray Heipp:
And it’s something that we need to address. And you’re absolutely right. As a male, I will never be able to understand. And that’s why we have to make sure that our administrations are open to getting the feedback, not just from others, but from any women on staff. And many of our administrators are female, which helps with that understanding that goes on. But we also need to create a culture. And having the right supports in place allows us to create a culture where suddenly when something like that happens, we can lessen the trauma because there’s at least an acceptance that goes on, not finger pointing or questioning or laughing that unfortunately goes along sometimes with our middle school students and even our high school students.
[00:11:13] – Tanya Hill:
Well, Doctor, I thank you so much. I think we’ve come a long way. Several states have reduced the taxes on period products or feminine hygiene products. Other states are actually creating laws. I think there are now over 23 states who actually have laws on the books that will support young girls in schools and colleges in some form or fashion. Not all of them provide funding, but at least we are starting to have the conversation and the conversation is making a difference.
[00:11:50] – Dr. Ray Heipp:
Tanya is amazing because of how she interacts and you could feel her passion within her words. And that’s what makes it easy to have a discussion like this because it’s not your prototypical. I’m sure you folks who work with people that are like, Hi, today we have this guest. Here’s our first question. You’re like, Okay, what’s going on here? But, Tanya, because of you and who you are, it makes a discussion like this a true dialogue. Thank you for that.
[00:12:19] – Tanya Hill:
I just want to thank you so much for taking this time out of your busy schedule to have this very, very important conversation with us. For all of you out there who are listening, we’d love to hear your stories as well. Thank you so much, Doctor, for joining us, and we hope to see you sometime again soon.
[00:12:41] – Dr. Ray Heipp:
That sounds great. Thank you for having me and thank you for all the work that you’re doing. It’s so important, especially for our young ladies in school. They need that support. We need to band together to support them.
[00:12:54] – Tanya Hill:
Absolutely. Thank you so much. Have a great day.
[00:12:57] – Dr. Ray Heipp:
[00:12:57] – Tanya Hill: