Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Period’ bill sparks concern

June 9, 2023

Florida House Bill 106, dubbed the “Don’t Say Period” bill, passed the state House on March 31. The bill, introduced by Republican Rep. Stan McClain, intends to restrict sex and health education in the state, most notably through the ban of instruction on human sexuality, sexually transmitted diseases and menstruation before 6th grade. If signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis, the measure would take effect across Florida on July 1. 

According to the National Health Services, girls typically start puberty between ages 8 and 13, and boys start puberty between ages 9 and 14. This means many young girls would have experienced their periods before starting middle school. 

“Imagine getting your first period at school in 5th grade and panicking because you don’t know what is happening,” junior Joy Jiang said. 

Democrat Rep. Ashley Viola Gantt shared this sentiment and criticized the lack of research in the bill. “It wasn’t even contemplated that little girls can have their periods in third grade or fourth grade,” she said in her testimony

The bill not only prevents education on basic puberty, but prohibits discussion of it amongst peers as well. “This could make students feel embarrassed and shameful about something that’s completely natural,” junior Lara Todd said. “Lack of education on periods is a lack of basic education.”

In the aspect of basic education, many have asked the question as to what young girls ages 8 to 11 should do when they have their periods before what is mandated by the state as an “acceptable age to know” about their own bodies. 

“Sure, maybe Florida lawmakers want to restrict the discussion to parents and families only, but what about the students who don’t have anyone to tell them this—unavailable parents or guardians who just don’t care?” Jiang said.

The bill also attempts to ignore the existence of transgender and nonbinary people in its sex education reform for grades 6 through 12, defining reproductive role and sex as sex chromosomes, naturally occurring sex hormones and internal and external genitalia present at birth. The law also mandates that all material used for sex and health education courses be approved by the state education department to ensure they follow the idea that “biological males impregnate biological females by fertilizing the female egg with male sperm; that the female then gestates the offspring.”

Parents are given more ability to object to what is being taught in classes, and DeSantis’ guidelines make it easier for them to do so. According to the law, once a course material is objected to, it must be removed from instruction within five days. Only after the objection is resolved may instruction using those materials continue. 

As this would likely give parents more authority in the education system, some question future implications of the policy. “What if a parent says I don’t want my child to ever be exposed to slavery and that part of our history?” Gantt asked during her testimony.

“I’m actually scared for the kids growing up in Florida right now, and I hope that the people living there, both students and adults, are very aware of what policies their lawmakers want to pass and how harmful they are,” Jiang said. “Florida is kind of a [mess] right now.”

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