The Florida High School Athletic Association’s Sports Medicine Advisory Committee is standing by its requirement that high-school athletes submit information about their periods before they can play a sport, the Palm Beach Post reports.
In October, the FHSAA recommended that Florida begin using a digital, national sports-registration form that makes it mandatory for students to answer detailed, private questions about their menstrual health, including when they got their first period and how much time typically passes between periods.
The decision was met with backlash from parents and medical professionals who say that such information — which is effectively the reproductive-health data of adolescents — is private and does not need to be collected by schools, especially at a time when abortion access and transgender rights are under attack and many Americans fear that their health information could be used against them. “I don’t see why (school districts) need that access to that type of information,” Dr. Michael Haller, a pediatric endocrinologist based in Gainesville, told the Post in October. “It sure as hell will give me pause to fill it out with my kid.”
❋ The digital form would also be kept by a third-party software company, Aktivate, which is not run by a medical-care provider and therefore isn’t bound to or protected by HIPAA laws.
Critics have noted that this policy would be a major challenge for transgender athletes who may have to out themselves with their responses to the questions. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis approved a bill last year—which is currently under legal fire—that bans transgender female students from playing on women and girls’ sports teams.
Texas school districts also ask female-athletes very similar questions about their menstrual history. In several school districts—including in Austin, Dallas, Houston and Fort Worth—the questions are mandatory to complete, according to The Dallas Morning News.
Many other states require student athletes to undergo a physical examination from a healthcare provider, but they generally only ask the provider to share a signature affirming that the athlete is in good health, rather than turn personal health history over to the school.
The current version of the form states “FEMALES ONLY (optional)” and asks the following:
When was your first menstrual period?
When was your most recent menstrual period?
How much time do you usually have from the start of one period to the start of another?
How many periods have you had in the last year?
What was the longest time between periods in the last year?
In Florida, these written forms with students’ medical information are submitted to school officials, contrary to a number of other states where only a doctor’s signature is required to clear an athlete for play. While period information is important for doctors to know as it affects an athlete’s physical health, some parents and medical professionals raised red flags with the questioning.
Many doctors argued that only the third page of the FHSAA form needs to be shared with school districts — the page that carries the doctor’s signature that clears the athlete for participation in sports. The page also allows doctors to list precautions or limitations for the athlete. The rest, they argue, should remain confidential between a physician and their patient.