Florida could ban young girls in certain grades from talking about menstruation
A proposed bill moving through the Florida Legislature is raising eyebrows across the country over a controversial provision that could prevent a young girl from talking about her period with a teacher before sixth grade.
HB 1069 limits human sexuality instruction to sixth grade and above.
Read the bill here:
SPECIAL COVERAGE: Education
An exchange during a March 15 House Education Quality Subcommittee meeting in Tallahassee sparked controversy as former teacher and Rep. Ashley Gantt, D-Miami, questioned the bill's sponsor, Rep. Stan McClain, R-Ocala, about the language that says "instruction in human sexuality... may only occur in grades 6 through 12."
"If little girls experience their menstrual cycle in fourth grade or fifth grade, will that prohibit conversations for them because they are in grades below sixth grade?" Gantt asked.
"It would," McClain answered.
McClain went on to say that penalizing teachers for having those discussions are not the intent of the bill.
"For the first time in a while, I was appalled," said Annie Filkowski, the policy and political director for Planned Parenthood of South, East, and North Florida. "I was really upset that the bill sponsor answered so quickly 'yes.'"
Filkowski said the legislation could have harmful impacts on young girls.
"It's critical for young people to be informed about their bodies and not feel shame when it comes to menstruating, when it comes to knowing their bodies and body parts, and especially when it comes to being able to go to your teacher or a school nurse when something comes up and you need support," Filkowski said.
"We believe that it is appropriate age to have this type of instruction take place," McClain said during the March 15 meeting.
While McClain said he was open to future tweaks, the bill moved forward out of this committee as is.
"Are you amenable to amendments to put in place the ability for little girls to still have that conversation when appropriate, if that does occur?" Gantt asked.
"I would be amenable to having a conversation about it in context with what we are trying to achieve with the bill," McClain answered.
The human sexuality component is just a small part of this bill. Much of the proposed legislation expands on the current process of allowing parents and community members to challenge library books and other instructional materials in schools.
McClain's proposed measure requires objection forms to be easily accessible on the homepage of a school district's website, among other requirements.
Other legislation we haven't heard as much about is HB 389, proposed by Rep. Kelly Skidmore, D-Boca Raton. It would require middle and high schools to have feminine hygiene products available to students for free.
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