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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at USFSP chapter.

The extent to which Florida legislators will go to assert their conservative views knows no bounds. Republican Florida Representative Stan McClain sponsored what is being called the “Don’t Say Period Bill.” This bill, technically called HB 1069, is one of the many moves that Florida legislators have made in attempts to control and limit the discussion of gender and sexuality in public schools.  

The “Don’t Say Period Bill” would prohibit students from learning about human sexuality until sixth grade. Teachers would be unable to teach about aspects such as sexually transmitted diseases or reproduction, which includes the topic of menstruation, all throughout elementary school. While some may agree that this is an appropriate age to begin discussing the topic of sexuality, there are young girls who get their periods much earlier than sixth grade. Girls typically begin menstruation between the ages of 8 and 15, however this varies depending on the individual. If a girl starts her period in elementary school, which is a high possibility, they would be prohibited from asking questions or learning about it. Education about the female body is being limited with an age requirement as though it is something “scandalous.”  

The bill originated out of the House Education Quality Subcommittee about two weeks ago. In a hearing with this subcommittee, Democratic State Representative Ashley Gantt asked McClain, “if little girls experience their menstrual cycles in fifth grade or fourth grade, will that prohibit conversations from them since they are in the grade lower than the sixth grade?” To which he replied, “it would.” This limits the access that young girls need to resources that may not be available to them at home. Not all children have stable home lives that can provide the conversations necessary when going through things like puberty and menstruation. School is a place where many students find solace and help, especially with things that their parents will not or cannot teach them. The bill is only encouraging and increasing the issue of the female health education gap by preventing conversation about it within schools until a certain age. This is an existing issue without bills like this being proposed, for example, in a recent study “94% of more than 1,400 women failed a rudimentary Women’s Health IQ Quiz.” There is already a massive amount of miscommunication and lack of education surrounding women’s health and female anatomy, and this bill will only worsen the situation.  

Societally, periods are often considered a taboo topic. Girls often feel embarrassed and uncomfortable talking about it, and it’s a topic that men are entirely uneducated on and widely avoid. Women often feel the need to hide their period products when going to the bathroom or hesitate to discuss the topic unless in private, with someone close to them. The menstrual process is an entirely natural bodily process, and yet young girls are taught to hide and feel ashamed of it. According to Dana Alloy, founder of FemGuide, “the female body is often considered inappropriate, gross or dirty across a variety of cultures, leading women to internalize their bodies as shameful.” Bills like HB 1069 are adding to this societal mindset that female bodies are something that are shameful and not to be discussed until a certain age.  

Menstruation is not the only topic that this bill prohibits, it would also prevent the discussion of sexually transmitted diseases. Essentially, the bill would prohibit the necessary education that would help encourage safe sex by leaving students uneducated regarding STDs. While many would like to believe that kids that young do not need to know about STDs, it is better to be safe than sorry. It’s better for kids to be overeducated on a topic that may not yet apply to them rather than be uneducated and get themselves into a situation that would be difficult to get out of.  

The bill also attempts to enforce conservative views into the education system through the instruction of abstinence, the encouragement of heterosexual relationships, and the emphasis that sex is solely determined by biology. According to the bill, teachers should “teach abstinence from sexual activity outside of marriage as the expected standard for all school-age students.” While many parents hope that their kids abstain from sex, it is often an unlikely scenario. Telling kids to abstain rarely works, and usually results in ignorance regarding sex. Ignorance often leads to the spread of STDs and accidental pregnancies. The proposed content for sex education would also heavily encourage heterosexual relationships and entirely focus upon sexual reproduction between a biological female and a biological male. The bill states that the benefits of a monogamous heterosexual marriage should be taught to the students that are of-age. It will be asking teachers to inherently encourage the kind of romantic and sexual relationships students are involved in in the future and who they should marry. It will actively ignore and discourage any type of romantic or sexual pairing other than heterosexuality. Furthermore, in the grades where teachers are allowed to discuss sex education, the content would state that “reproductive roles are binary, stable, and unchangeable.” Essentially, this bill is instilling the view that one’s sex is unchangeable and that the binary reproductive systems are the only ones that are valid, which undermines many. The lack of acknowledgement of anything other than heterosexual, cisgender education and reproduction will only lead to further ignorance and a feeling of alienation for those it does not apply to.  

Despite the serious issues with this bill, there is some hope. When McClain was asked if teachers would receive disciplinary consequences if they were to discuss periods with students who do begin menstruating prior to the sixth grade, he explained that they had not considered it. He said that it “would not be the intent of the bill” and that he would be “amenable” to changing the bill slightly to permit those types of conversations. While his amenability is greatly appreciated, it still does not solve all the problems with this bill.  

In response to this proposed bill, many have voiced their concern and anger. Celebrities and organizations are beginning to speak out. Singer Lauren Jauregui said she is “sincerely so ashamed of Florida.” The Florida ACLU responded to the bill saying that it is an attempt for control over sex education curriculum as well as an expansion of book bans. They explained that it would allow “anyone in the district to object to any material in the classroom, school library or on a reading list that depicts or describes any sexual conduct, even if it is not pornographic, if it is not for a health course.” Social media users have also started responding to the bill, furious with the Florida legislature. Twitter users have stated that the bill “is appalling” and that it is “so unbelievably dangerous.” It seems that the outcry will only increase if this bill is passed.  

The “Don’t Say Period Bill” poses a distinct threat to the education of students in Florida. The repercussions of this bill would lead to ignorance surrounding many aspects of human sexuality. It would directly exacerbate the already stigmatized conversation surrounding menstruation and the female body. Legislation like this is becoming more prevalent today and it is terrifying. I think it is terrifying that the government is attempting to determine when students can learn about their own bodies or what is deemed “appropriate” at what age when there are kids who are experiencing the very thing that they are prevented from learning about. The passing of this bill would only encourage the mindset that female bodies are “scandalous,” “shameful,” and that periods are “gross.” Education surrounding the female body is severely lacking and this would only cause it to worsen. In my opinion, this bill seems like an attempt to further enforce the views of the Republican political party into the education system of Florida by determining what specifically can be discussed and when. I truly hope this bill does not pass, while lawmakers may think they are “protecting” children, they are simply placing them in a situation where they may know nothing about their bodies and their sexualities. 

gia is an editor and writer at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg chapter. she often writes articles about politics and books. she is studying english at the university of south florida. in the future, she plans to go to law school and then work in the book publishing industry. In her free time, she loves to read and write, and she can frequently be found browsing for new books at a bookstore or studying at the library. she will always have a book with her and will talk about books with anyone!