Let’s get to the good news first: the Florida High School Athletic Association has decided to rethink the matter student athletes about their menstrual history. The association should not have outraged the community that such 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 a growing controversy at the school, eliminating the five menstrual questions and changing state registration procedures to match. to the more commonly used national model, which keeps personal health and medical matters in their place. between students, their parents and doctors.
“It’s glaring,” association board member and former state representative Ralph Arza told The Post’s Katherine Kokal. “There’s no reason we need to collect this information and there’s no reason schools need it.”
Arza’s recommendation is to remove the questions about menstruation and update the status form to ensure that only the final doctor-signed sheet, without any detailed medical information from the student-athlete, is given to schools. This is a much-needed change that the entire association should wholeheartedly endorse.
Reproductive privacy is important. What had largely gone unnoticed in Florida high school athletic forms is now in the public spotlight, thanks to the combination of the privacy issue raised in the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, and the growing public awareness of the need to protect personal information in the computer age.
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 get your first period? When was your most recent period? How much time elapses between each period? How many periods have you had in the past year? And finally, what was the longest between periods last year?
Outrage invites reconsideration:Florida Athletic Association to Reconsider Menstrual Issues for High School Athletes
There are valid medical reasons for the questions, as irregular periods can be signs of a health condition called the Female Athlete’s Triad, which can lead to loss of bone mineral density and cause serious injury to athletes who have menstrual cycles. Currently, this and other medical information on the form is available to coaches and school athletic directors.
Until recently, the issues had received little attention and no controversy. Parents of students who don’t participate in high school sports never had to fill out the paperwork, and for parents whose children did, the forms listed the questions as “optional.”
Ironically, the change brought together two opposing camps: conservatives who are wary of intrusive government with personal medical information, and abortion choice advocates who fear the data will be used to sue them if they ever end a pregnancy.
“I don’t see why any school or athletic department would need this information,” Dr. Tommy Schechtman, a pediatrician at Palm Beach Gardens, told The Post.
The controversy can be resolved quite easily. The Florida High School Athletic Association, which is responsible for developing and distributing the medical evaluation form for student-athletes to practice and participate in high school sports, can and should modify the form so that it requires always have the student-athlete examined by a physician, but keep the medical history off the form submitted to school officials.
Florida is one of the few states that still allows schools to access menstrual history. At a time of growing concerns over parental rights and digital privacy, a cautious decision by the association to revamp the medical form for student-athletes should lead to an easy solution.