Dad Petitions for Period Pains to Be Legitimate Reason for Missing School
A few weeks ago, Marcus Alleyne's 13-year-old daughter, Izzy, needed to take off from school for period pains. But Alleyne learned the school didn't consider period pains, or dysmenorrhea, a legitimate reason for an absence.
Now, he's trying to fix that. He created a petition on Change.org calling on schools to treat dysmenorrhea like any other illness. It currently has more than 60,000 signatures, Alleyne wrote Thursday morning.
It all started a few weeks ago when Izzy, who lives and attends school in the English county of Cornwall, was "doubled over in pain" and "unable to sleep" because of period pain, Alleyne recalled. Izzy's parents thought it was best she stayed home while she was in pain but were surprised when school officials told them the absence would be considered "unauthorized."
"We had the notion that if it [were] any other illness or condition it would have been documented as an illness rather than an unauthorized absence," Alleyne said in an interview with Sky News.
Alleyne, who has three daughters, decided to go to bat for his daughter and the many other people who may be affected by this policy.
"Not allowing absences due to dysmenorrhea, which you are doing by considering them unauthorized, shows very clear disparities," he wrote in the intro to his petition. "This leads me to the concerns I have surrounding ignorance of the condition, the impact of a CIS male-dominated field within the senior leadership teams in schools, or the sheer disregard for the physical, emotional, and academic wellbeing of our pupils."
Alleyne doesn't think the attitudes and rules are conducive to learning, empowering, or creating equity. He also pointed out that these policies are not just harmful towards girls born biologically female who identify as female, but students across the gender spectrum.
"How many young females, trans, and non-binary pupils are being dismissed within the education setting, as a result of diminishing their experiences, and unilaterally deciding that their discomfort does not matter?" Alleyne would like to know.
The thousands of signees couldn't agree more.
"I wish I could sign this petition a million times. Not only are all the points valid and important, but I am so, so proud that this has been brought to the table for addressing by a man," one person wrote.
"It's not our fault we have periods. We can't help the symptoms," another said.
"I suffered. My daughter suffered, and now my granddaughter is suffering too…it pains us when we have to send her to school still. [She's] suffering in silence because the powers that be choose not to recognize that this is a legitimate problem," someone else said.
More than half of women experience period shaming, and 60 percent say they feel embarrassed when they get their period, according to a survey conducted by "period-proof underwear" brand THINX.
Experts worry this shaming can have long-term impacts on menstruating people's mental health. One of the best ways parents can help put a stop to it? Do exactly what Alleyne is doing—education and advocation.