Legislation moving in the Florida House would ban discussing menstrual cycles and other human sexuality topics in elementary grades.
It’s part of life, but now a Republican in the Florida House wants to ban all talk of girls and their periods in school before sixth grade.
“I don’t see a benefit to banning a child or any educational entity from being able to discuss a menstrual cycle. I think it’s insanity,” said Elizabeth Radi, a Florida parent.
House Representative Stan McMlain of Marion County does not agree. He wants sex-ed out of Florida’s elementary schools. His House Bill 1069 would ban discussion of human sexuality, sexually transmitted diseases, and menstrual cycles in public schools until sixth grade.
“My first reaction was, I’m confused as to why a bill like this is needed; it’s necessary,” said political scientist Aubrey Jewett.
Political scientist and parent Jewett understands why McClain wants to standardize sex-ed in schools, but he said the measure does more than set ground rules for teachers. It goes after girls too. “To forbid them even to talk about it amongst themselves in school, which is what he said this bill would do, at least now. I mean, that just seems absurd.”
Biologically, young women can start their first menstrual cycle as early as 8 years old or in third grade.
“What happens when they develop that cycle? During school? Are they going to have to worry about going to a teacher or a leadership in that school and saying, hey, this has happened, I’m, you know, what do I do now, and then those teachers or those school officials are afraid to even talk about it?” said Radi.
The bill, sponsored by McClain, would restrict public school instruction on human sexuality, sexually transmitted diseases, and related topics to grades 6 through 12. At a recent committee meeting, McClain confirmed that discussions about menstrual cycles would also be restricted to those grades.
“So if little girls experience their menstrual cycle in 5th grade or 4th grade, will that prohibit conversations from them since they are in the grade lower than sixth grade?” asked state Rep. Ashley Gantt, a Democrat who taught in public schools and noted that girls as young as 10 can begin having periods.
“It would,” McClain responded.
The GOP-backed legislation cleared the House Education Quality Subcommittee on Wednesday by a 13-5 vote, mainly along party lines. It would also allow parents to object to books and other materials their children are exposed to, require schools to teach that a person’s sexual identity is determined biologically at birth, and set up more scrutiny of certain educational materials by the state Department of Education.
McClain said the bill intends to bring uniformity to sex education across all of Florida’s 67 school districts and provide more pathways for parents to object to books or other materials they find inappropriate for younger children.
At the committee meeting, Gantt asked whether teachers could face punishment for discussing periods with younger students.
“My concern is they won’t feel safe to have those conversations with these little girls,” she said.
McClain said “that would not be the intent” of the bill and that he is “amenable” to some changes to its language. Another committee must approve the measure before it can reach the House floor; a similar bill is pending in the Senate.
An email seeking comment was sent Saturday to the office of Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is widely seen as a potential 2024 presidential candidate.
WINK News contributed to this report.