Let’s get to the good news first: The Florida High School Athletic Association has decided to reconsider asking student-athletes about their menstrual history. The association should not be outraged by the community’s finding that such highly personal medical information should not be requested on a student athletic registration form.
When it meets early next month, the association is expected to take steps to end the growing dispute over the school by removing five menstrual questions and changing the state’s registration procedures to conform to a more commonly used national model that leaves personal health and medical issues where they belong — between students, their parents and doctors.
More on this:Florida female student-athletes requested to report their menstrual history. Here are the questions
FOR SUBSCRIBERS:Florida asks student athletes about their periods. Why some find it “shocking” after Roe.
“This is outrageous,” Ralph Arza, a board member of the association and a former state representative, told the Post’s Katherine Kokal. “There’s no reason for us to collect this information, and there’s no reason for schools to need it.”
Arza recommends removing questions about menstruation and updating the state form to ensure schools are given only the final doctor’s release form without any detailed medical information from the student-athlete. This is a much needed change that the entire association should approve immediately.
Reproductive privacy is important. What went largely unnoticed on Florida high school sports uniforms is now in the public spotlight, thanks to a combination of the privacy issue raised by the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision overturning Roe v. Wade and growing public awareness about the need to protect personal data in the age of computers.
State law requires school districts to have completed medical evaluation forms for all high school athletes. For 20 years, these forms included optional questions for menstruating athletes: When did you have your first period? When was the last time you had your period? How much time passes between periods? How many periods have you had in the last year? And finally, what was the longest time between periods in the last year?
Outrage prompts reconsideration:Florida Athletic Association to Reevaluate Menstrual Issues for High School Athletes
Discussing questions:The Palm Beach County School Board will discuss menstrual history issues at a special meeting
The questions have valid medical reasons, as irregular periods can be signs of a medical disorder called the athletic triad, which can lead to loss of bone mineral density and cause serious injury in athletes who experience menstrual cycles. Currently, this and other medical information is available on a form for school coaches and athletic directors.
Until recently, these questions attracted little attention and no controversy. Parents of students who did not participate in high school sports were never required to fill out paperwork, and for parents whose children did, the forms listed the questions as “optional.”
The change ironically brought together two opposing sides: conservatives who distrust government intrusion with personal medical information, and pro-choice abortionists who worry that the data could be used for criminal prosecution if they ever terminate a pregnancy.
“I don’t see why a school or an athletic department would need that information,” Post Dr. Tommy Schechtman, a pediatrician from Palm Beach Gardens.
The dispute can be resolved relatively easily. The Florida High School Athletic Association, which is responsible for developing and distributing the medical evaluation form that allows student-athletes to practice and play high school sports, can and should change the form to still require the student-athlete to be examined by a doctor, but keeps the medical history off the form submitted to school officials.
Florida is one of the few states that still allows schools access to menstrual history. At a time of growing concerns about parental rights and digital privacy, the association’s prescient move to overhaul the student-athlete medical form should lead to an easy fix.