Proposed Florida bill would restrict discussions of menstruation in school

By Stephanie Srakocic | Fact-checked by Jessica Wrubel
Published March 30, 2023

Key Takeaways

  • Florida Bill 1069 limits the discussion of sexual health to students in grades six through 12.

  • Many girls experience their first menstrual cycle before entering the sixth grade.

  • Some argue that the proposed Florida legislation creates unnecessary fear, shame, and stigma around menstruation

Earlier this month, Florida House Representative Republican Stan McClain proposed a bill aiming to set limits on how schools cover the topic of human sexuality and to what age groups it is taught, causing some to speak out in outrage.

As with similar legislation in Florida, the newly proposed bill 1069 has the stated goal of allowing parent control over when their children learn this information. The bill has cleared committees and is on its way to the Florida House floor.

Florida Bill 1069 and discussions of menstruation

Florida Bill 1069 restricts all discussion of human sexuality to students who are in fifth through twelfth grades. This goes beyond previous Florida regulations restricting discussions of sexuality and gender identity to include any discussion of topics such as reproduction, sexually transmitted infections, puberty, and menstruation for students in fifth grade or below.

Although the bill cleared house committees, these restrictions are controversial. During one session, House Representative Ashley Gantt, a former teacher, asked Rep. McClain if Bill 1069 would mean that a fifth-grade girl experiencing her first menstrual cycle would be unable to talk to her teacher about it. Rep. McClain replied that it would.

Other important features of Bill 1069

Florida Bill 1069 would restrict how human sexuality can be discussed and taught in schools in numerous ways. In addition to preventing students below sixth grade from discussing menstruation, Bill 1069 would:[]

  • Require that all sexual health teaching materials gain pre-approval from the Florida Department of Education.

  • Allow parents to restrict access to certain library materials.

  • Require schools to teach that gender is based on reproductive function at birth.

What are the potential consequences of this legislation?

The restrictions in Bill 1069 are concerning to many people in healthcare, education, and public policy around the country. Organizations such as Planned Parenthood and the ACLU have spoken out against this bill.[][] There are several reasons for this. As Rep. Gantt pointed out in her questioning, many girls have their first menstrual cycle before they reach sixth grade.

The average age range for a first menstrual cycle in the United States is anywhere between 10 to 16, but it’s not rare for a first period to occur in a girl as young as eight.[]

Although it can vary slightly by exact birthdays and school district regulations, most children turn twelve the year they’re in sixth grade. This, Dr. Sophia Yen MD, MPH, founder of Pandia Health and clinical associate professor at Stanford Medical School tells MDLinx, is simply too late.

“Girls need to receive this education before their first menstrual cycle. Otherwise, they’re bleeding, they have blood coming out of their bodies, and they don’t know why. They think they’re dying, they think they have an infection. It’s a terrifying experience because no one explained what was going to happen,” Yen says.

Beyond creating unnecessary fear during puberty, not talking about menstruation until the sixth grade could cause a stigma or sense of shame around a natural body function. “We don’t avoid talking about nosebleeds, or any other kind of bleeding. Why this bleeding? What makes this something we can’t talk about in schools? Why is something these girls can’t even ask about? That absolutely makes it seem like something to be ashamed of and that needs to be kept a secret,” Yen says.

Girls in fifth, and even third and fourth grades, will experience puberty and begin menstruation even if they aren’t taught in school and are unable to ask a teacher about it. Silence on the topic sends a message, especially to children that age. “It’s ridiculous, and there’s no reason for it. I can’t believe this is being suggested in 2023," Yen says.

Bill 1069 is currently waiting for a scheduled date on the Florida house floor. Rep. McClain and other supporters of the bill argue that it is similar to other recent bills that have passed in Florida and are hopeful Bill 1069 will pass.

However, the bill is highly controversial and Rep. McClain has stated he would be willing to make minor changes to some sections.

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