Florida athletic association will no longer ask high school students about menstruation cycles

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A Florida high school athletic association will no longer ask female athletes questions about their menstrual cycles after facing widespread backlash from parents, educators and state lawmakers.

The Florida High School Athletic Association, which is responsible for governing interscholastic sports, voted 14-2 on Thursday to amend its form sent to schools to ask students only about their health and will only verify if an athlete is fit to participate. Four questions regarding a female athletes menstrual cycle and history will be removed.

The four questions at the center of the controversy asked whether the student had a menstrual period, and if so, how recent it was. The form also asked “how old were you when you had your first menstrual period?” and “how many periods have you had in the past twelve months?”

The association faced widespread criticism after the Palm Beach Post reported that the organization asked student athletes about their menstruation history and was considering making it mandatory.

During the meeting, a lawyer present with FHSAA read dozens of letters opposing the inclusion of the menstruation questions. The feedback included comments from outraged parents and community members who stated: “This is so out of line … you idiots are sick” and “I thank god I do not have a daughter because I would never allow her to play sports under these standards.”

Chris Patricca, one of two members who voted against changing the form, told the board members she continued to object to the elimination of the menstrual cycle questions.

“Many of today's comments in my opinion could have the impact of further stigmatizing this perfectly normal bodily function — implying that menstruation is in any way shameful is an archaic notion,” Patricca said. “What is controversial is the political pressure that has been placed on the association to look at this through the lens of political hot button issues.”

The questionnaire caused an uproar in Florida and beyond, in part because parents and others believed it was an invasion of privacy and worried the information could be used to prosecute teen athletes who received abortions outside of the permitted time frame. Florida last year banned women and girls from getting abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, with no exceptions for victims of rape and incest.

Some LGBTQ advocates also feared the disclosure of an athlete’s menstruation history would stigmatize transgender students. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in 2021 signed a bill outlawing transgender women and girls from competing in women’s sports.

John Gerdes, president of the association, said he wanted to make it clear that DeSantis and his office had nothing to do with the decisions made by the board.

“We felt no pressure from them, they did not contact us,” Gerdes said. “This was our issue to deal with.”

After the association voted, Florida Senate Minority Leader Lauren Book released a statement thanking the board for rejecting the “bizarre, outrageous, and inappropriate recommendation regarding mandated period tracking for female athletes — and for not only soliciting but actually listening to public testimony.”