A controversial piece of legislation in Florida, which would prevent educators from teaching about menstruation and other sex education topics in elementary school, advanced out of the House Education Quality Subcommittee last week.
The bill is sponsored by Republican Florida state Representative Stan McClain, and would mandate that only children from grades sixth through 12 can learn about human sexuality topics, such as reproduction and sexually transmitted diseases.
During last week’s subcommittee hearing, Democratic state Rep. Ashley Gantt questioned McClain, asking if it would restrict children who get their period at a younger age from getting their questions answered in school.
“So if little girls experience their menstrual cycle in fifth grade or fourth grade, will that prohibit conversations from them since they are in the grade lower than sixth grade?” Gantt asked.
McClain responded, “It would.”
According to the Cleveland Clinic, girls in the U.S. typically get their first period between ages 11 and 14, but can get them as early as age 9 and as late as age 15. Children in third and fourth grades are typically 8 to 10 years old.
Gantt also asked if teachers would face disciplinary action for broaching the subject of menstruation with students who get their first period but are not yet in sixth grade.
“We hadn’t contemplated that, but that would not be the intent of the bill,” McClain said, adding he would be “amenable” to changing some of the text of the bill to allow for those conversations.
HB 1069, like several other proposed pieces of legislation in the state, also stipulates how instructors can define sex and reproduction to their students, adding that reproductive roles are “unchangeable.”
The bill’s suggested version of sex education would “teach that sex is determined by biology and reproductive function at birth; that biological males impregnate biological females by fertilizing the female egg with male sperm; that the female then gestates the offspring; and that these reproductive roles are binary, stable, and unchangeable.”
The legislation also stipulates teachers should instruct older students about abstinence, emphasizing heterosexual relationships.
“Teach abstinence from sexual activity outside of marriage as the expected standard for all school-age students while teaching the benefits of monogamous heterosexual marriage,” the bill reads.
This is not the first time Florida schools have been in hot water over the topic of menstruation. Earlier this year, the state responded to heavy criticism after making it mandatory for female athletes to include their menstrual history on the medical forms they have to submit in order to participate in school sports. Florida removed that requirement in February, though it still requires athletes to note down their “sex assigned at birth” rather than just their sex.