Controversial high school athletics measure shot down

Controversial high school sports measure was shot down after community backlash Photo credit: Richard N Horne

On Feb. 1, the Florida High School Athletics Association (FHSAA) released a new draft of a physical examination form that would require high school female athletes to provide their menstrual history to make sure each student is healthy.

On Thursday, the controversial proposal was retracted due to swarms of reports from parents that were against the requirement for various reasons. With a final vote of 14-2, the FHSAA’s Board of Directors decided to remove menstrual-related questions from the form after an emergency meeting.

Some examples of the questions include, “When was your last period?” “How many periods have you had in the last year?” and “What was the longest time between periods in the last year?”

“It seems like invasive, unnecessary surveillance of young women’s bodies,” said Brenna Munro, an English professor who teaches about the transgender community.

Last June, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill, on the first day of Pride Month, that banned transgender females from participating in sports in public high schools throughout the state. However, DeSantis claimed that he signed the bill because he wanted to create utter fairness in women’s sports, according to CNN.

The governor received waves of backlash for the bill, claiming that he was attacking the LGBTQ+ community intentionally through his political agenda. Florida became the 8th state in the country to enforce such bans.

Many advocates against the potential for providing menstrual history argued that this requirement would fall in line with what they believed DeSantis was trying to promote: isolation and targeting of the transgender community.

“The gathering of this information could potentially allow people who are neither family members nor healthcare providers to know, or suspect, that a student is pregnant, or has been pregnant; or that they are transgender,” Munro said.

Another concern with the form stemmed from the worry that these individuals’ menstrual and other health information could be used to justify the overturning of Roe v. Wade and the mentioned transgender law that DeSantis approved.

Roe v. Wade brought much attention to the menstrual physical examination form questions, once it was overturned, which were optional at the time, as the case provided implications for a women’s right to privacy over her body. With the case overturned, some were worried that the case would be used as justification for requiring this information on the forms.

“This proposal, if enacted, would have been part of a thorough-going extension of state control over education, and over young people’s lives; and part of a political production of moral panic,” Munro said. “It would also be a case study in how abortion and transgender rights are linked through the issue of bodily autonomy — and the right to control data about your body.”

Similarly, with the ongoing LGBTQ+ community feeling targeted in Florida, this requirement also became a concern for their ability to participate in school sports or be involved in anything school-related.

“I think it is a direct attack on the transgender youth in the sports arena,” Brittany Frizzelle, an advocate for reproductive rights at the Power U Center for Social Change in Miami said to NPR.

However, there were some students and individuals who would not have had a particular problem with providing this information and answering these questions.

“I wouldn’t mind sharing my menstrual history,” freshman real estate major Maddie Seder, said. “Other people do have problems with that — I think it’s a personal preference. But this could probably make LGBTQ+ students feel bad. No one wants to feel like they don’t belong with everyone else.”

Parents have argued that they want the right over their children’s private information, and their children should not be obligated to share such history with the FHSAA, or any other organization that they do not feel comfortable with.

Luckily, those avidly against these implications do not have to worry about the consequences of ousting their children’s information. The new form only requires students to provide information that shows they are healthy enough to play their sport, according to Miami New Times.

“It’s really hard,” Seder said. “Everyone should feel and be included.”