Bill Could Ban Girls From Talking About Their Periods in School
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — In Florida, Republican lawmakers have introduced a bevy of new legislation that will, if passed, restrict certain health educational materials used in state schools. One such bill, House Bill 1069, would limit children below sixth grade from discussing their menstrual cycles in school.
During a House Education Quality Subcommittee hearing last week, the bills’ sponsor, Republican state Rep. Stan McClain, was questioned about the implications of his bill.
“So if little girls experience their menstrual cycle in fifth grade or fourth grade, would that prohibit conversations from them since they are in a grade lower than sixth grade?” Democratic state Rep. Ashley Gantt asked.
McClain said, “It would.”
Later in the hearing, McClain said punishing children for bringing questions or concerns to their teachers about menstruation “would not be the intent” of the bill and that he would be “amenable” to some changes to its wording.
“Providing young people with the information they need to make responsible decisions about their sexual health is critical to reducing unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections. Make no mistake: young Floridians will suffer if this legislation becomes law,” said Annie Filkowski, policy and political director of the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates, in a statement provided to The Well News.
Most young people get their first period, known as menarche, between the ages of 11 and 14, but some get their periods as early as age 9 or as late as 15. Health experts recommend speaking to girls about menstruation before they have their first period.
“Talking about puberty isn’t a one-time conversation. Talk to your kids about the changes their bodies will go through as they grow. Some girls start puberty at 8 years old, and some boys do by 9. So you may need to start these talks earlier than you think. Discuss the physical and emotional changes that come with puberty before they begin,” according to resources for parents from Nemours Children’s Health, an education site supported by Nemours Health.
House Bill 1069 doesn’t explicitly mention periods or menstruation in the bill text, but instead says, “instruction in acquired immune deficiency syndrome, sexually transmitted diseases, or health education” would only be permitted in grades six through 12. The bill passed, 13-5, in a party-line vote. GOP legislators make up a supermajority in the chamber.
The bill has been amended to include language that prohibits students and teachers from talking about LGBTQ+ issues through the eighth grade.
“That would allow school employees and students to disrespect transgender students’ and staff’s pronouns, forbid a teacher from providing their pronouns to students, and forbid school employees from asking students their pronouns,” Filkowski said.
HB 1069 has cleared all committees and is waiting for the Rules Committee to schedule it for floor debate.
The bill’s Senate companion 1320, has one more committee stop before floor debate.
In the statement provided to The Well News, Filkowski said the bill would create additional barriers for young people in Florida to access sex education at a critical point in their lives.
“As a result, more young people could engage in sexual activity without being taught about safety, consequences, relationships, and their own bodies,” the statement reads.
The bill, which was introduced last month, would also mandate schools teach that “sex is determined by biology and reproductive function at birth” and “these reproductive roles are binary, stable, and unchangeable.”
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