Florida has been raising eyebrows across the country as a result of a new proposed bill that would change the state’s health education for good. While the state crusades through various bill propositions on gender, sexuality, and diversity, this latest legislation would ban menstrual discussion and other sexuality topics in elementary schools.
The Florida House held a subcommittee hearing on Wednesday, March 15 in which Republican Rep. Stan McClain sponsored House Bill 1069, which could end up restricting girls from discussing the subject of menstrual cycles before the sixth grade.
While the bill doesn’t specifically institute a ban against discussions of menstruation, it does put a limit on public elementary school education that discusses sexuality, sexually transmitted diseases, and other health topics, stating that “such instruction may only occur in grades 6 through 12.”
Democratic Rep. Ashley Gantt was not afraid to question the logic behind McClain’s bill. “Does the bill prohibit conversations about menstrual cycles?” questioned Gantt, noting to the Republican Rep. that young girls can begin their first period before grade six. “So if little girls experience their menstrual cycle in fifth grade or fourth grade, would that prohibit conversations from them since they are in a grade lower than sixth grade?” McClain responded with a mere, “It would,” confirming the bill’s ability to ban period talk.
On average, girls experience their first period around the ages of 10 to 15, the average age being 11, however girls may experience an earlier start at age 8 or 9. This large range of ages is a key concept as to why young girls need instruction that teaches them about their growing bodies, and it’s sparking a lot of concerns about how students will be able to be prepared for the maturing stages of their bodies.
This is only a glimpse into the bill. McClain also is looking to revise provisions “relating to objections of certain material,” according to the legislation. This means that parents and community members can object to educational material and challenge the material if they find it to be inappropriate.
Florida has been no stranger to setting rules on menstrual cycles in the education system. In October 2022, Florida schools began to request that all female student-athletes had to track and report their menstrual cycles through a third-party digital platform, which includes a form labeled “female athletes only”. Their reasoning? Knowledge of their female students’ cycles is apparently necessary in order to allow them to participate in school sports. This raised a lot of red flags and controversy for these female athletes who felt it was an invasion of privacy from the education system.
Judy Blume, famed author of the coming-of-age novel Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, has joined those criticizing the ban on Twitter. Blume responded with a cheeky, “Sorry, Margaret” referencing her well-respected novel that, since its 1970 publication, has been used to help growing readers in exploring topics such as puberty—and, in particular, menstruation.
Sorry, Margaret. https://t.co/7rHSy3yxu2
— Judy Blume (@judyblume) March 18, 2023
Blume’s tweet has been receiving a growing amount of likes and retweets, and commenters are not afraid to join her in her comments. Political commentator and columnist, Fred Menachem, responded to the author, “Judy Blume normalized puberty & helped us through it when no one else would. We evolve & now they want to ban a convo about biology?” He continued to call out DeSantis saying that this bill is not a political conversation, “it’s all about power & men controlling the narrative for women, right @GovRonDesantis?”
Judy Blume normalized puberty & helped us through it when no one else would. We evolve & now they want to ban a convo about biology?
Don’t be fooled, this is not about politics, it’s all about power & men controlling the narrative for women, right @GovRonDeSantis?
— Fred Menachem (@FredMenachem) March 20, 2023
Another response added on to Blume’s joke, saying “‘Are you there, God? It’s me, Margaret.’ ‘Hi Margaret. God here. First, I’m legally required to ask…do you reside in Florida? And if so, are you 12 or older?’” This one made us laugh.
“Are you there, God? It’s me, Margaret.”
“Hi, Margaret. God here. First, I’m legally required to ask…do you reside in Florida? And if so, are you 12 or older?”
— TJ O’Brien (@yesthattjobrien) March 20, 2023
The confirmation from McClain that HB 1069 would ban period talk is provoking controversy in the country. McClain stated he could tweak some of the wording in the bill, however the GOP-backed bill was cleared with a 13-5 vote as is. The bill is waiting to be approved by one more committee until it can reach the House floor, so it is only a matter of time until Florida’s health education starts to go down a path that will prevent young students from learning about their bodies in an open environment.
Top photo: Courtesy from CDC on Unsplash