This Republican Bill Would Bar Kids From Talking About Their Periods at School

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A clerk restocks tampons at Compton’s Market in Sacramento, Calif. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

A Florida Republican wants to dramatically curb sex education in public schools—to the point that he’s introduced a bill that would even prevent young girls from talking about their periods with school officials.

The bill, introduced by state Rep. Stan McClain, would only allow teachers to impart material and instruction on sexually transmitted diseases, health education, or human sexuality “in grades 6 through 12,” according to the legislation, which came up in a subcommittee hearing on Wednesday. During that hearing, Democratic state Rep. Ashley Gantt pointed out that this language could have some far-reaching implications.


“Does this bill prohibit conversations about menstrual cycles?” Gantt asked. “Because we know that typically the ages are between 10 and 15 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?”

“It would,” McClain replied.

McClain later said that it “would not be the intent” of the bill to penalize teachers if students want to talk about their periods, and that he’d be open to amending the bill, the New Republic reported.

McClain’s office did not immediately respond to a VICE News request for comment on whether the bill would impact students’ ability to get pads or other sanitary materials from school nurses.

“They are restricting sex education, banning abortion, defunding birth control, and now going so far as to admit that young women cannot discuss menstruation under their absurd legislation,” Annie Filkowski, policy and political director of the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates, told HuffPost in a statement. “Young people start menstruation anytime between nine and 16 years old. It’s ridiculous to prohibit them from discussing it with their teacher.”


Florida is now perhaps the epicenter of Republican efforts to curtail students and teachers’ ability to freely discuss sex and gender. Last year, Florida Gov. and rumored presidential contender Ron DeSantis signed the controversial “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which would outlaw classroom teaching about sexual orientation and gender identity from kindergarten through the third grade. Now, the state may be on track to expand that ban up through the eighth grade, while legislators in states like Iowa and Indiana are pursuing their own versions of “Don’t Say Gay” laws. Florida is even seeking to limit what public colleges and universities can teach: One bill introduced in the state legislature in February would block them from teaching about gender studies.

DeSantis has also signed into law legislation that bars transgender student athletes from participating in the sports that match their gender identity. McClain’s bill would also target trans kids: It would require teachers to tell students 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” and that “the female then gestates the offspring.” 


McClain’s bill has also been criticized for potentially enabling book banning. The bill would require the state Department of Education to approve all instructional materials in schools, and would also make it easier for people to file objections to a school’s books and give parents “the right to read passages from any material that is subject to an objection.” 

If a parent or “resident of the county” objects to a book for being pornographic, age-inappropriate, or even having “sexual content” that they think isn’t educational, the bill would require that it get pulled from school shelves until the objection is resolved.

McClain has contested claims the bill would enable book bans. “What we’re trying to do is ensure that our parents continue to have the opportunity to know what materials are being used to instruct” their kids, he said, according to local news outlet WUSF

Gantt also pushed back against the idea that limiting kids’ access to information about sexuality is going to help them in the long run.

“I hope that we all understand that we are taking away the ability for our children to be critical thinkers, by telling them we want to protect their innocence,” she said. “They’re going to be adults one day, and they need to be informed adults.”

The bill passed out of the subcommittee, with a 13-5 vote along party lines. Florida’s state legislature is also in the midst of speedily advancing a six-week abortion ban, which could drastically limit abortion access for everybody in the South.

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