'The Don't Say Period Bill?' Anatomy of a sex ed bill moving through Florida legislature
A proposal is moving forward in the Florida House and Senate that opponents fear would prohibit elementary school students from talking to teachers about their menstrual cycles. Supporters argue HB 1069 and SB 1320 builds upon the parental rights in education measures the Florida Legislature has approved the past two sessions.
Rep. Stan McClain, R-Ocala, concedes he is amenable to amending his proposal to allow a student to discuss menarche, a girl's first menstrual cycle.
Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, through a spokesperson, said the House prohibition on such discussions is not in the Senate version, which cleared its first committee stop Monday, and has one more committee hearing before going to the full Senate.
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Florida's student menstrual cycle controversy
McClain stunned Democrats on the House Education Quality Subcommittee Wednesday when Rep. Ashley Gantt, D-Miami, a former schoolteacher, asked if his proposal would prohibit a 10-year-old (5th grade) from talking to a teacher when they experienced their first menstrual cycle.
From USA TODAY:Florida bill would ban girls from talking about their periods in school, GOP lawmaker says
“It would,” said McClain.
McClain, a contractor in private life, would later explain his intent is not to punish students who posed questions under such circumstances and that he would be amenable to amendments.
When Gantt asked for clarification. McClain said, he was “amenable to having a conversation about it in context with what we’re trying to achieve in the bill.”
Florida Planned Parenthood Action reacted to the exchange with a tweet of “WHAT” followed by a question mark, exclamation mark, question mark, and exclamation mark.
Watch Florida State Rep. @StanMcClain tell Rep. @Gantt4Florida that his bill prohibits young people from talking about their period….
— Florida Planned Parenthood Action (@PPactionFL) March 15, 2023
That led Forbes Magazine to dub HB 1069 the “Don’t Say Period Exclamation Mark” bill.
First menstruation can occur between the ages of 10 and 16, according to the National Library of Medicine, and can occur as young as 8, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
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Gantt said the House bill would prevent teachers and schools from doing their job.
“And they can't even talk to their students about these very real and biological things that happen to their bodies,” said Gantt in debate. “It wasn't even contemplated about little girls having their periods in third grade or fourth grade, or even fifth grade when this bill was written. That is astounding to me.”
The American Civil Liberties Union protested that by allowing anyone to object to material in the school library or on a reading list if it describes any sexual conduct, McClain authored a massive book-banning bill.
McClain dismissed the criticism. He said opponents were pushing misinformation.
“What we're trying to do is ensure that our parents continue to have the opportunity to challenge what material is used in the classroom,” said McClain.
The context and what HB 1069 and SB 1320 bill do
HB 1069 and SB 1320 are among a list of bills being considered this session that are part of Gov. Ron DeSantis' efforts to remove what he considers is "woke ideology" in public education. Lawmakers are considering measures to require teachers to use pronouns that match a child's sex as assigned at birth, to eliminate majors in gender studies, and cut diversity, equity, inclusion programs at state universities.
Proposals in the House and Senate extends the prohibition on classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity through grade 6 in the House and grade 8 in the Senate.
HB 1069 would:
Restricts instruction on sexual health, such as health education, sexually transmitted diseases and human sexuality to grades 6 through 12,
Mandates schools to teach gender is determined by biology and reproductive function at birth,
Require all sexual health material be approved by Florida Department of Education,
Provide parents with the right to restrict access to library materials.
SB 1320 uses similar language but specifies the parental rights to remove materials is limited to depictions of nudity, sexual conduct, or sexual excitement when it:
Predominantly appeals to a prurient, shameful, or morbid interest;
Is patently offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community as a whole with respect to what is suitable material or conduct for minors; and,
Taken as a whole, is without serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value for minors.
HB 1069 has cleared all committees and waits for the Rules Committee to schedule it for floor debate. The House’s next floor session is Thursday.
The Senate companion 1320, has one more committee stop before floor debate.
"That decision about when and if certain topics should be introduced to children belongs to parents, who should not have to worry that their students are receiving classroom instruction on topics and materials that parents feel are not age appropriate or for that matter or are not appropriate at all," Sen. Clay Yarborough, R-Jacksonville, sponsor of SB 1320.
"Specific to book banning … is it the intent to have one parent to determine what all the students in a class or school have access to for their education,” Rep. Ashley Gantt to House sponsor Rep. Stan McClain. “That could take place. Yes," responded McClain.
"This is what happens when the GOP is too focused on rushing culture war issues through the process. They should know a girl might need to know information about her period before sixth grade. This bill is hurtful and broad, creating more problems than it solves. A young girl’s body, and how it functions, are not a shameful dirty thing, they are part of life and the legislature shouldn’t be creating more confusion and shame around it,” House Democratic Leader Fentrice Driskell of Tampa.
James Call is a member of the USA TODAY NETWORK-Florida Capital Bureau. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow on him Twitter: @CallTallahasse
This article originally appeared on Tallahassee Democrat: Florida menstruation speech bill? Sex ed in schools proposal derided