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Should Period Pains Be a Legitimate Reason to Miss School?

A father of young daughters raised concerns over disparities presented in England’s school system, which is also evident in other countries, surrounding period pains, otherwise medically known as dysmenorrhea. This proud girl’s dad, Marcus Alleyne, has created a petition to make dysmenorrhea a legitimate reason for absence in schools. The viral petition has gained a lot of traction with over 90,000 signatures.

The petition started after the school one of his daughters attends rejected period pains as an acceptable excuse to miss school. This resulted in Marcus calling the school administration team to report the absence “due to a medical condition,” and he refused to give any further information about his daughter’s health because he wanted to protect her privacy.

This inequality led him to realize “the impact of a cis-male-dominated field within the senior leadership teams in schools, of the sheer disregard for the physical, emotional and academic well-being of our pupils.” 

Marcus makes a good argument here in recognizing the poor representation and diversity in school systems. This is why it is so important to incorporate diversity in all forms of organizations, whether it be a school, workplace or even the government — especially the government. Diversity allows for different sets of ideas or problems to be presented and discussed, which can then lead to solutions that account for several groups of people based on sex, ethnicity, race and more. 

He continued to say the situation, “raises significant concerns surrounding the physical, mental and social wellbeing of not only my daughters but all people who have periods across the country.” How do we expect women to succeed and prosper in a society that refuses to recognize the health concerns surrounding one of the most natural phenomena known to humans? 

The UK Department for Education responded with the following statement:

“We understand that periods are not always an easy experience, and any discomfort they cause can be disruptive to pupils’ education. Schools are able to authorize absence as appropriate where pupils are ill or unwell. When a pupil does not attend school, the school should discuss the reason with the pupil and their family, as well as the support that can be provided to ensure that they are able to regularly attend.” 

For those who may not recognize the importance of this matter, it can be useful to learn that “71% of young women experience painful periods, with 20% of them missing classes because of the pain…and 40.9% reported decreased performance or lowered concentration in classrooms.”

Dysmenorrhea is a painful experience that affects the performance of any individual going through it. According to John Hopkins Medicine, some symptoms include “cramping in the lower abdomen, pain in the lower abdomen, low back pain, pain radiating down the legs, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, weakness, fainting and headaches.”

Dysmenorrhea is not out of the ordinary but rather a very common struggle. Many people have experienced it, including me. Cramps from periods have caused me to stop everything I was doing to attend to my symptoms. I’ve had to miss events due to the pain and have had to stay up late to make up for the time I wasn’t able to do work. 

This adds to a running list of disparities targeted specifically towards women, such as social stigmas surrounding periods, lack of access to feminine products, dress codes that prioritize a man’s education over a woman’s and more.

The petition that Marcus Alleyne created has started conversations surrounding this disparity that can hopefully spark solutions in our society. Dysmenorrhea is a medically recognized condition and therefore should be respected and authorized as an acceptable excuse for absence in school. This notable petition is a step in the right direction to equity for women. 

Claudia is a third year Applied Physiology and Kinesiology major at the University of Florida. She's from Boca Raton, FL, but is a proud latina with roots in Mexico. She is a passionate woman looking to use her voice to inform readers on a wide range of topics from social disparities to personal college experiences from the perspective of a woman. When she isn't in class or volunteering, you can probably find her rollerblading somewhere outside or eating Ben & Jerry's ice cream while binge watching Friends for the 100th time. With her experience in writing for Her Campus UFL, Claudia hopes to one day bring this skill into her dream career as a physician to spread awareness about health disparities she encounters in the clinic.
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