A proposed sexual health bill in Florida could see young girls banned from discussing periods and menstruation in school until Grade 6.
The Republican-led bill is likely to be signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Florida representative Stan McClain proposed the legislation, which has been met with ample backlash from Democrats and some Florida natives. The bill would greatly restrict public school education about human sexuality, sexually transmitted diseases, diversity and related topics before Grade 6.
Most Grade 6 students are 11 or 12 years old. It is common for girls to first start their period between 10 and 15 years old. The average age of menstruation is 12, though research now suggests young girls are getting their period earlier, likely because they weigh more than girls of decades prior, leading to earlier activation of the pituitary gland.
On Wednesday at a Florida house education quality subcommittee hearing, Democratic state representative Ashley Gantt asked McClain for justification on the proposed legislation.
“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?” she asked.
McClain simply confirmed, “It would.”
Gantt also asked if teachers could be punished for discussing periods with younger students.
McClain said “that would not be the intent” of the legislation, adding that he would be open to changing some of the bill’s language.
Gantt shared video of the subcommittee questioning to Instagram, writing, “We will NOT BE SILENT. The Democratic Party is fighting against these dangerous & draconian policies EVERY STEP OF THE WAY.”
The legislation cleared the subcommittee by a 13-5 vote primarily along party lines. The measure must be approved by another committee before it can reach the house floor; a similar bill is pending in the senate.
Republicans, who dominate Florida’s legislature, are defending the GOP-backed legislation as a means to create a uniform, state-wide sex education curriculum. It would require schools to teach that a person’s sexual identity is determined biologically at birth and would set up more scrutiny of certain educational materials by the state Department of Education.
Republican lawmakers claim the bill will also allow parents in Florida to have better control of what their children learn at school. The legislation would give parents the ability to object to books used as course material. Only one parent would need to object to a text for it to be banned.
Florida Planned Parenthood Action said the representatives behind the bill “are so obsessed with power and control that they are literally prohibiting young women from talking about menstruation.”
“Mandating birth, restricting sex ed, and vetoing funding for birth control is simply not enough for them,” the organization wrote, referring to a number of other Republican-backed bills to limit abortion and other services.
— With files from The Associated Press