A new Florida bill—House Bill 1069—would severely restrict sexual education in the state’s public schools, and would also ban girls from discussing their periods before sixth grade.
During a Florida House Education Quality Subcommittee meeting last week, Republican state Rep. Stan McClain introduced the bill and said it includes restrictions on girls talking about their menstrual cycles. State Rep. Ashley Gantt (D) questioned McClain on his proposed legislation that primarily seeks to restrict certain educational materials used in state schools (not unlike the book banning that has been running rampant in several parts of Florida during the last year).
House Bill 1069 would require that instruction on sexual health, such as health education, sexually transmitted diseases and human sexuality, “only occur in grades 6 through 12,” which prompted Gantt to ask whether the bill would prohibit young girls from talking about their periods in school when they first start having them.
“So if little girls experience their menstrual cycle in fifth grade or fourth grade, will that prohibit conversations from them since they are in the grade lower than sixth grade?” she asked.
McClain responded, “It would.”
This goes against the advice of medical providers, who generally recommend talking to children about puberty and changes in their bodies prior to those changes occurring—so kids are informed and know what to expect.
The average age for girls to start their first periods is 12, but they can start as early as 8. It’s so important to normalize periods and discuss them from an early age to make sure they’re prepared and ask questions without feeling embarrassed.
The GOP lawmaker representing Ocala, Fla., later clarified that it “would not be the intent” of the bill to punish girls if they came to teachers with questions or concerns about their menstrual cycle, adding that he’d be “amenable” to amendments if they were to come up. The bill ended up passing, 13-5, on Wednesday in a party-line vote, as GOP legislators make up a supermajority in the chamber.
McClain did not immediately respond to a request for comment early Friday. Gantt decried the bill to The Washington Post as “egregious.”
Unfortunately, the bill ended up passing, 13-5 last week in a party line vote (Republicans make up the House majority in Florida). Gantt commented to The Washington Post that she views the bill as “egregious.”
“I thought it was pretty remarkable that the beginning of a little girl’s menstrual cycle was not contemplated as they drafted this bill,” she said.
Annie Filkowski, the policy and political director of the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates, agrees with Gantt. She tells The Post that “young Floridians will suffer if this legislation becomes law.”
“This bill shines a bright light on Florida’s political leaders’ perpetual thirst for power and control,” Filkowski said, adding that it’s “ridiculous” to prohibit young girls from discussing menstruation with their teachers.