Although the FHSAA voted in January 2023 to recommend instituting this requirement, as of this writing it has not yet been implemented (contrary to some online reports). The FHSAA's Board of Directors was set to render a decision on the proposal in February. On Feb. 9, 2023, they voted to remove all questions pertaining to menstruation from the forms.
In late January 2023, the Florida High School Athletics Association's (FHSAA) sports medicine advisory committee reiterated a recommendation that, if implemented, would make it mandatory for student athletes to submit their menstrual period information to their schools, leading to privacy fears from parents and abortion rights advocates.
As of this writing, however, it was only a recommendation, and no mandate yet exists, despite some erroneous online reports. On Jan. 25, 2023, for example, a popular tweet by an abortion rights activist claimed, "Female student athletes in Florida need to provide their schools with detailed information about their periods."
"Despite public outcry, the Florida High School Athletics Association is standing by its decision that girls submit menstruation info to schools: including age of their first period, how many days are typically in between their periods, and the date of their most recent period," a follow-up tweet read.
Here are the facts: A panel of the FHSAA has submitted this recommendation to the FHSAA Board of Directors, which will meet on Feb 26-27, 2023, in Gainesville, Florida, to render a decision. Until then, submitting menstrual information is not yet a state requirement.
The committee voted to adopt a national registration form that makes answering questions on menstruation mandatory for student athletes, but diverges from the guidance of that particular form by requiring all answers (medical and reproductive history) to be submitted to school officials — not just the page with doctors' signature clearance.
The ongoing controversy began in the fall of 2022. Florida student athletes, in general, are required to answer dozens of questions on a form before their doctors clear them for practice or play. These questions have to do with physical fitness, and aim to prevent injuries.
For around 20 years, Florida's female student athletes have been asked to answer a number of additional questions that pertain to their menstrual periods. However, this section of the form has been optional, something that may change if, or when, the FHSAA sports medicine panel's recommendation receives full board approval.
The current version of the form states "FEMALES ONLY (optional)" and asks the following:
When was your first menstrual period?
When was your most recent menstrual period?
How much time do you usually have from the start of one period to the start of another?
How many periods have you had in the last year?
What was the longest time between periods in the last year?
In Florida, these written forms with students' medical information are submitted to school officials, contrary to a number of other states where only a doctor's signature is required to clear an athlete for play. While period information is important for doctors to know as it affects an athlete's physical health, some parents and medical professionals raised red flags with the questioning, when, according to an October 2022 Palm Beach Post investigation, a number of school districts shifted the forms to a digital platform.
Their concerns grew as many states worked to criminalize abortions after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and transgender athletes faced scrutiny. In Florida, abortions are banned after 15 weeks, with only a few exceptions.
Pediatricians told the Palm Beach Post that they were appalled to learn that schools and coaches could access sensitive medical records — access that was seemingly growing easier with the paper-to-digital transition in record-keeping. Any forms (physical or digital) could be subpoenaed. Meanwhile, in Palm Beach County, nearly all athlete-registration forms moved online, which meant reproductive data for athletes was being stored by a third-party software company called Aktivate. Other counties were also planning to digitize their forms.
In October 2022, the Palm Beach County School District called on the FHSAA to remove the questions about menstruation on the form entirely. A spokesperson told NBC News, "Although the question regarding menstruation is optional, our district has recently inquired about having this question removed," adding that the district keeps records for seven years before destroying them.
Abortion rights advocates believe that reproductive privacy is at risk, and worry that students who seek to terminate pregnancies could risk prosecution if their menstruation information is made available to such parties. Parents, meanwhile, have concerns that their child's medical data could be leaked or sold.
Aktivate's website said "a valid subpoena" would be required for it to share information with law enforcement. A spokesperson for Aktivate added that they "[adhere] to the data privacy standards set by each school district," in addition to "all state and federal laws relating to the confidentiality of student records."
The company also said it could remove profiles: "Upon request and approval by the school district, the company is able to remove parent login information, as well as any associated athlete profiles," the spokesperson told NBC News.
Many doctors argued that only the third page of the FHSAA form needs to be shared with school districts — the page that carries the doctor's signature that clears the athlete for participation in sports. The page also allows doctors to list precautions or limitations for the athlete. The rest, they argue, should remain confidential between a physician and their patient.
After the Palm Beach Post investigation, in November, the FHSAA's Board of Directors asked the committee to review the forms. On Jan. 17, 2023, FHSAA Executive Director Craig Damon erroneously claimed that the almost all states — 49 — required athletes to turn in medical and menstrual history to schools. The Palm Beach Post found that 10 states explicitly told students not to turn in their medical history to schools.
The panel called a special meeting in mid-January 2023 to reconsider the mandatory reporting of menstrual history on the forms, only to reiterate its stance shortly afterwards. The meeting also clarified the erroneous information presented by Damon, who subsequently apologized.
In a Feb. 9, 2023, meeting the FHSAA approved a proposal to remove all questions about menstruation cycles from the school forms. The new form will be available for the 2023-2024 school year, and will begin to be used in the spring of 2023. Their meeting agenda stated that their goal was to "provide an updated […] form which protects a student-athletes's privacy while including pertinent medical information a health care provider at a member school would need access to." The new forms which are included in the meeting notes have removed all questions relating to menstruation, and note that only the last two pages with the student athletes' and physicians' signatures are to be submitted to schools. The pages detailing their medical information is to be retained by students' parents and their physician.
The FHSAA also appeared to quietly change a question on the form asking student athletes to input their "sex assigned at birth." Before this, the form simply asked for their sex. None of the board members mentioned this change in the meeting, according to the Palm Beach Post.