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CAPE FEAR MEMORIAL BRIDGE CLOSURE: UPDATES, RESOURCES, AND CONTEXT

Florida high school athletes won't have to report their periods after emergency vote

The part of the form that deals with menstrual cycles and had been optional. The Florida High School Athletic Association's board of directors voted to remove the questions about high school athletes' menstrual history.
Clara-Sophia Daly/Miami Herald/Tribune News Service via Getty Images
The part of the form that deals with menstrual cycles and had been optional. The Florida High School Athletic Association's board of directors voted to remove the questions about high school athletes' menstrual history.

Updated February 9, 2023 at 5:28 PM ET

The Florida High School Athletic Association's board of directors has voted 14-2 to remove questions about high school athletes' menstrual history from a required health form for participation in high school athletics.

Thursday's emergency meeting focused on the debate around menstrual cycle information. But in a less-discussed change to the requirements for Florida athletes, the newly adopted form asks students to list their "sex assigned at birth." The previous version asked only for "sex."

These are particularly fraught questions at a time when many people are worried about how their reproductive health information might be used, both because of the overturning of Roe v. Wade, and because of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' support for a law banning transgender athletes in girls' sports.

Brittany Frizzelle, an organizer focusing on reproductive justice at the Power U Center for Social Change in Miami, says she worries the information will be used to target transgender athletes.

"I think it is a direct attack on the transgender youth in the sports arena," Frizzelle says.

The Florida High School Athletic Association says they've based the new form on recommendations from groups like the American Academy of Pediatrics. Officials with the FHSAA did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The vote comes after weeks of controversy surrounding questions on the medical form, which is typically filled out by a physician and submitted to schools. The board approveda recommendation by the association's director to remove the questions, which asked for details including the onset of an athlete's period and the date of that person's last menstrual cycle.

Dr. Judy Simms-Cendan, a pediatric gynecologist at the University of Miami, says it's a good idea for doctors to ask younger patients about their periods, which can be an important indicator of health. But she says that information is not essential to competing in sports and should be kept private.

"We've had a big push in our state to make sure that parents have autonomy over their children's education," she says. "I think it's very important that parents also have autonomy over a child's private health information, and it shouldn't have to be required to be reported to the school."

During the emergency meeting Thursday, the association's attorney read public comments into the record for about an hour. The comments overwhelmingly opposed requiring athletes to report those details to school athletic officials, citing privacy concerns.

The new form will become effective for the 2023-24 school year.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Sarah McCammon
Sarah McCammon is a National Correspondent covering the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast for NPR. Her work focuses on political, social and cultural divides in America, including abortion and reproductive rights, and the intersections of politics and religion. She's also a frequent guest host for NPR news magazines, podcasts and special coverage.