UPDATE (2/1/2023): The Florida High School Athletic Association's Board of Directors will discuss at its next meeting whether questions about student-athletes' periods on a physical evaluation form should remain optional or be made mandatory, VERIFY partner station WTSP reports. The meeting is scheduled for Feb. 26-27.
After the Supreme Court’s recent overturning of Roe v. Wade, which granted the constitutional right to an abortion, some people have raised concerns about providing reproductive health data to outside sources such as period-tracking apps.
Those concerns have now been extended to an alleged rule impacting high school athletes in Florida. News outlets and some people on social media are claiming that female student-athletes in the state have to report their menstrual history in order to play sports.
“They must disclose when they got their first period, date of their last one, etc.,” one person wrote on Twitter.
Are female high school athletes in Florida required to report their menstrual history to play sports?
No, female athletes at Florida public high schools aren’t required to report their menstrual history to play sports.
Student-athletes in Florida are asked questions about their periods as part of a physical evaluation form, but the students can decline to answer.
WHAT WE FOUND
The Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) manages sports and organizes competitions for public high schools throughout Florida. The association requires athletes to fill out a physical evaluation form to play sports.
All public school districts in the state are required to use the athletic forms provided by FHSAA, Claudia Shea, executive director of communications and engagement for the Palm Beach County School District in Florida, told VERIFY.
The physical evaluation form has five questions for female student-athletes about their menstrual cycles:
- When was your first menstrual period?
- When was your most recent menstrual period?
- How much time do you usually have from the start of one period to the start of another?
- How many periods have you had in the last year?
- What was the longest time between periods in the last year?
Responses to these questions are listed as “optional” on the FHSAA form, which also asks other health questions about conditions such as asthma and seasonal allergies that require medical treatment.
Shea addressed the claims circulating online, writing in an email to VERIFY that “there are definite errors being reported.”
“The question you are referencing is optional, whether the information is submitted online or on paper,” Shea said.
In Palm Beach County, male and female student-athletes use the same form and both can write “not applicable” in the section with questions about menstrual cycles, Shea said.
Miami-Dade County and Hillsborough County Public Schools in Florida also have copies of FHSAA physical evaluation form on their websites, and the questions about menstrual cycles are listed as optional there.
The questions about menstrual cycles aren’t new, either. FHSAA has had them on the physical evaluation form for at least two decades, according to Shea.
Even though athletes aren’t required to answer the questions, Palm Beach County School District has recently asked whether FHSAA can remove them. The association hasn’t changed the form to date.
“The District will continue to explore other options, such as lobbying for revisions to this form and/or limiting the information provided to schools to solely the physician’s approval or disapproval of the student athlete’s medical clearance,” Shea wrote in a statement.
FHSAA told VERIFY in a statement that a Florida law requires the association to “adopt bylaws that require all students participating in interscholastic athletic competition or who are candidates for an interscholastic team to satisfactorily pass a medical evaluation each year before participating.”
A consent and liability form from the FHSAA “provides consent for release of the student’s medical history should treatment for illness or injury be necessary. The school retains this information and is able to provide any necessary medical information to the health care practitioner providing services for the ill or injured student,” the association’s executive director said.
Florida high schools aren’t alone in asking female student-athletes about their menstrual cycles.
A medical history form from Virginia High School League, Inc. includes these four questions:
- Have you ever had a menstrual period?
- Age when you had your first menstrual period
- Number of periods in the last 12 months
- When was your most recent menstrual period?
The North Carolina High School Athletic Association also asks the same questions of its female student-athletes.
Abnormal or irregular periods can signal health problems, such as bleeding, thyroid or pituitary disorders, the Cleveland Clinic says on its website.