EDUCATION

FHSAA committee calls special meeting on student athlete menstrual questions

The same group days ago recommended making mandatory for athletes to answer the questions about their menstrual periods and to turn them over to schools.

Katherine Kokal
Palm Beach Post
A high school girl's lacrosse team celebrates on the field. A committee of the Florida High School Athletics Association has recommended all female athletes be required to report their menstrual history to their schools when they register to play each year.
  • The FHSAA's sports medicine committee reviewed athlete registration policies after parents and doctors raised concerns.
  • The committee on Tuesday recommended to the board of directors making the questions mandatory.
  • Two days later, the committee announced a special meeting slated for Tuesday.

Just two days after recommending that Florida require high school athletes be required to report their menstrual history and to turn it over to their schools, a panel on sports medicine has called a special meeting to reconsider.

The Florida High School Athletics Association's sports medicine advisory committee Tuesday voted to recommend that the organization's board adopt a national sports registration form that makes mandatory questions for female athletes about when they got their first period, how many weeks they typically go between periods and the date of their most recent menstrual period.

The committee went further to say that all pages of the form, including athletes' medical and reproductive history, should be turned over to their school in order to play.

That contrasts with guidance on the national form that they were aiming to adopt, which says an athlete should turn in only their physician's signed clearance. It also differs from the state's current form, which marks the questions about menstruation as "optional."

Earlier this week:Florida HS sports association panel recommends making menstrual cycle questions mandatory

Investigation:Florida asks student athletes about their periods. Why some find it 'shocking' post-Roe

What are the questions?Florida student athletes asked to report their menstrual history. Here are the questions

Doctors and parents raised concerns about the questions after learning about them from a Palm Beach Post investigation. That recommendation came after one piece of information from FHSAA Executive Director Craig Damon: that all 49 other states in the country require athletes to turn in their medical and menstrual history in order to play.

But that statement directly contradicts research by The Palm Beach Post, which found that 10 states explicitly tell athletes not to turn in their medical history when they register. Those states include California, Colorado, Maryland, Minnesota, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin.

The Post provided this information to Damon, FHSAA staff and sports medicine committee members following the Tuesday meeting. Damon did not comment on the matter.

On Thursday, the committee called a special meeting for Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. The only business item on the agenda is a discussion of the registration form. There is no explanation of the action item or recommended motion.

The Florida High School Athletics Association asks female athletes about their periods along with three dozen other questions on physical and mental health.

The FHSAA is designated by state law as the governing nonprofit organization of high school athletics in Florida.

Its board is made up of four elected public school representatives, four elected private school representatives, two elected school superintendents, two elected school board members, three representatives appointed by the commissioner of education and a representative of the commissioner, according to state law. Members are elected by FHSAA member school representatives.

The sports medicine advisory committee makes recommendations to that board and is made up of eight licensed physicians, one chiropractor, one podiatrist, one dentist, three athletic trainers and one current or retired head coach of a Florida high school. Members nominate and appoint new members.

Will Florida sports committee reverse recommendation to make menstrual questions mandatory?

At the start of Tuesday's meeting, the committee appeared ready to adopt the national form but recommend that the board require schools to collect only the final page, which says whether an athlete is cleared by a doctor to play sports.

Committee member Robert Sefcik, its previous chairperson and executive director at the nonprofit Jacksonville Sports Medicine Program, proposed the sign-off page include space for a doctor to list allergies or certain medical information that could inform emergency care.

The Florida High School Athletics Association's sports medicine committee met on Jan. 17, where it recommended the board of directors make questions about athletes' menstrual history mandatory to turn into schools. On Jan. 19, the committee called a special meeting to discuss the matter again. That virtual meeting is scheduled for Tuesday.

"The one thing that we really resonated towards was the fact that all medical history does not need to be made available to individual schools but to the health provider and the parent," he said.

But the committee abandoned Sefcik's motion and on the heels of learning Damon's information, opted to recommend adopting the form that requires the answers to menstrual history questions but diverged from that form's guidance by requiring that the athletes turn in all pages to their school.

Sefcik, who voted against that motion, told The Post on Friday that he remains opposed to requiring athletes to turn in their medical history to their schools. He said he did not call the special meeting, nor has he submitted any motions or changes.

Katherine Kokal is a journalist covering education at The Palm Beach Post. You can reach her at kkokal@pbpost.com. Help support our work,subscribe today!