A state athletics board voted yesterday to remove questions about female student athletes' menstrual cycles from yearly medical forms, scrapping a proposed policy under which Florida high schools could have kept detailed records of the athletes' periods.
On Thursday, the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) board — which oversees high school sports across the state — voted 14-2 during an emergency meeting to axe the questions from the 2023-2024 school year medical forms.
Under the new setup, student athletes in Florida will only be required to submit one page of a four-page packet linked to the medical evaluation that determines whether they’re healthy enough to play their respective sport. The remaining pages, which will be kept by parents or healthcare providers, still contain an in-depth health questionnaire, though the section about female students' menstrual cycles has been eliminated.
Previously, the board was considering following an FHSAA medical committee's plan to make student athletes answer a series of questions about their menstrual health including "When was your first menstrual period?" and "How many periods have you had in the last year?"
The questions about students' menstrual history had been optional for more than two decades.
She says that the response from board members is the "perfect example" of the power of advocacy.
"Schools and sports organizations do not need details about a person’s bodily functions to understand that a medical professional certified their ability to participate in sports," Duesterhaus wrote in a statement. "We applaud executive director Craig Damon for being receptive to the concerns of experts, elected officials, and citizens across the state."
The FHSAA board is made up of 14 men and two women; 12 of the members are elected representatives of schools and school districts, while three are appointed by Florida’s education commissioner, who is handpicked by the governor and also sits on the board.
According to an agenda item for Thursday’s meeting, the board said that while it recognizes the role that medical history plays in a pre-participation physical exam, it understands that it is “vital” to protect the privacy of student athletes.
A number of detractors, including physicians, students, parents, and advocacy groups, spoke out after the FHSAA sports medicine committee, which is composed of doctors and athletic trainers, proposed last month to include the menstrual health questions as mandatory elements of health evaluations. Some critics felt the measure was part of a larger effort to stigmatize transgender students in school sports, while others simply called it an invasion of privacy. (In 2021, Gov. DeSantis signed a bill barring transgender female students from playing on public school sports teams with players identified as female at birth.)
The association’s spokesperson told media outlets that its reversal was not in response to concerns about transgender athletes in women’s sports, as some had previously expressed.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, the board read aloud emails from more than 150 people, many of whom blasted the board over the proposal and urged it to remove the menstrual health questions.
Board member Doug Dodd said during the Thursday meeting that if the association were to mandate these questions about menstrual history, he'd have a "real problem" with it as a parent.
"As a father of three daughters who all played middle school and high school sports…I really understand the concern over making these questions mandatory,” Dodd said, noting how he and his family previously chose to not answer such questions on health forms because they felt they were intrusive.
Board members Chris Patricca and Charlie Ward cast the two opposing votes.
Patricca said that while she didn't support the removal of the questions –– asserting that they were an essential part of health evaluations –– she concurred that the information should remain private.