Florida students asked to submit period records online in ‘dystopian’ move

A team of young people gather together in a huddle while playing sports

Teachers and health officials in Florida have raised concerns following news of a third-party digital platform being used to record students’ periods.

Florida schools are asking student-athletes to report their menstrual history before they are allowed to participate in school sports.

The form – which all athletes are required to fill out with a physician and hand to their school’s athletic director – asks students to report their medical history on things like seizures, allergies and fainting spells. 

It also questions athletes about their periods in a section on the form labelled for “female athletes only”.

Questions include: at what age they began menstruating, when was their most recent period, the timing of their menstrual cycle, the number of periods in the past year, and the longest time between periods in the last year. 

Florida schools have asked student-athletes about their menstrual cycle for two decades, the Palm Beach Post reported. The outlet said the questions are optional and historically have been documented on handwritten forms. 

But doctors, parents and campaigners began to raise the alarm when some school districts said they would be switching to recording the form through a third-party digital platform. 

‘Invasion of privacy’

Dr. Michael Haller, a pediatric endocrinologist based in Gainesville, told Palm Beach Post he didn’t see why school districts needed access to “that type of information”. 

“It sure as hell will give me pause to fill it out with my kid,” he said of his own teenage children.

A number of people on social media expressed their horror at the idea of public institutions getting their hands on personal, medical information about which students are having their periods or not – especially in a state as anti-abortion and anti-trans as Florida. 

Doctors who work with the Palm Beach school district confirmed that only the final page of the form tshould be shared with the school district as it’s the one where a doctor clears an athlete to participate. 

But in Florida, according to the Palm Beach Post, all the medical data is turned over. 

The students’ health data is being held by Aktivate, a software company founded by former AOL CEO and News Corp executive Jon Miller. The app said all student information will be kept secure and confidential. 

All of the forms – whether digital or paper – are subject to subpoena. If subpoenaed, Aktivate and school districts would have to turn over the information to law enforcement.

Concern after Roe v Wade

As people struggle to come to grips in a post-Roe v Wade America, it’s become clear that data privacy is a major concern. 

This became evident in August when global news outlets reported on how Facebook handed over the user data of a mother and daughter facing criminal charges for allegedly carrying out an illegal abortion in Nebraska. A Nebraska law from 2010 bans abortions after 20 weeks, but the time limit wasn’t enforced under Roe v Wade.

The case highlighted how law enforcement can make use of online communications in the post-Roe era.

Even before the Supreme Court ruling, there were calls for the deletion of period tracking apps over concerns that users’ reproductive health data could be used against them. 

Abortion is illegal in Florida after 15 weeks, and the state has taken active steps to roll back the rights of trans people. Florida governor Ron DeSantis signed into law a bill banning trans students from participating on school sports teams that align with their gender identity in 2021. 

Activists rally for abortion rights

Florida governor Ron DeSantis has signed law bills banning discussions of LGBTQ+ topics in schools and stopping trans students from playing sports. (Getty)

DeSantis championed the state’s reviled Don’t Say Gay law, which he signed in March, preventing discussion on LGBTQ+ topics in Florida classrooms. 

The state has also taken steps this year to ban gender-affirming healthcare and treatment for trans minors – a group that could be directly impacted by these questions on reproductive health by schools. 

Joan Waitkevicz, president of the Palm Beach County Democratic Women’s Club, told the Palm Beach Post that it was “scandalous and shocking” that student-athletes were being asked to share their reproductive health on registration forms. 

“There’s been a lot of discussion, even at the level of the White House, about how individuals’ menstrual history should not be widely shared because it could be used to target them in the case of state regulations on abortions,” said Waitkevicz.

Waitkevicz described the policy as “anti-choice” and “anti-trans politics rolled into one”.