Florida Board Decides Against Tracking High School Athletes' Menstrual Cycles

The mere proposal still raises critical questions about privacy concerns, government overreach, and attacks on transgender athletes.

Girls after playing soccer

Javier Diaz / Stocksy

The Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) held an emergency meeting Thursday, Feb 9, after receiving significant public blowback to their considerations of making students' menstrual cycle information mandatory on athlete eligibility paperwork. The FHSAA oversees interscholastic athletic programs across the state of Florida and had been considering adopting a form that would have made these previously optional questions mandatory.

The questions, masked under a concern for students' health, would have forced athletes to disclose personal, private medical information about whether the student had a menstrual cycle, when their first menstrual period was, the dates of their most recent period, and the number of periods they had in the previous 12 months. This data would have conceivably been accessible by coaches, school districts, and third-party digital platforms.

After a lengthy reading of public comments that had been emailed to the board, many of which called out the blatant government overreach, invasive privacy concerns, and the ongoing attack on all transgender youth, the board ultimately voted 14-2 not to collect period data.

While the menstrual tracking questions did not pass in this case, it begs the question as to why this was being considered in the first place, and what the potential result would have been had there been no public outcry, led largely by parents.

Events and news stories like this one act as opportunities for parents to engage with their children on these topics, says Megan Maas Ph.D., an assistant professor of human development and family studies at Michigan State University. Maas noted not only is this a great way to mitigate the misinformation that exists but it's important to have these critical and developmentally appropriate conversations with your children.

"Regardless of the gender identity or sexual orientation of your own kids, it's a great way to socialize them to be supportive of others," Maas shares. "They should be aware of what anti-trans and anti-gay policies do to friends and peers."

Maas says often parents may find themselves saying things like "Oh, I'm so glad my kid doesn't have to deal with some of these issues…" But she encourages parents to push beyond that idea to understand that regardless of what their child may or may not directly experience or struggle with, the goal is to raise children that are empathetic, understanding, and supportive of others. This takes intentional time and deep conversation.

Clinical social worker and sex educator Jillian Amodio, shares the same sentiments regarding conversations parents need to be having with their children. Amodio says children should know what is appropriate for someone to ask of them, and to be empowered when responding to a person in a position of power over them.

She teaches that no one should have the right to ask invasive questions, be it regarding their period, their sexuality or activity, or anything private about their bodies. "Under no circumstances should you be pressured to talk about an aspect of your health with someone other than your medical provider," Amodio says. She works with parents and youth educating them on owning that knowledge.

Amodio says situations like the fiasco in Florida expose the real reasons behind such considerations. The idea that this board was concerned about athletes' health is not at the root. "That's the job of students' medical providers. Your job is to coach them—not to manage their health and wellness," she says.

Her fear that these types of mandatory requirements would expose and hurt athletes who are transgender is very real and widely felt. Considering recent legislation repressing bodily autonomy and access to abortion, actions like these act like harmful whistleblowing opportunities, and each one passed serves to popcorn the next.

While this particular policy did not pass, over the past decade, we have seen an exponential growth of very deliberate policies that strip away at the rights and humanity of many. It is important that we see that collectively, these policies are a big deal, and they are designed to control the bodies of cisgender women and girls, of those with disabilities, as well as transgender and non-binary children and adults. And for these very reasons, as parents, we must engage with our children, process what is happening, and contextualize it so we raise loving, caring, and empathetic people.

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