Amanda Dobrucky is a 1L student at American University Washington College of Law. She graduated from the University of Florida in 2023 with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Women’s Studies. She has assisted in research in the Political Science Department on the intersectionality African American Congresswomen faced while representing their constituents. The intersectionality focused on in the research project was being African American and also a woman while being in a predominantly white male environment. This developed her love of research and is now interested in criminal justice, women’s rights, and government.

Florida prides itself on being one of the best states for education saying they work to improve education for students of all backgrounds and abilities.[1] Florida however, has been in the news numerous times this past year for the “Don’t Say Gay” bill[2], which prohibits discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity in certain grade levels.[3] Parents could even sue teachers and schools for discussing these topics.[4] This is one of many conservative laws Florida has implemented in schools.[5] This has also led other conservative leaning states to implement similar laws in their schools.[6] There is however, another bill that affects what teachers can talk about; the “Don’t Say Period” bill.[7]

The “Don’t Say Period” bill was passed by Governor Ron DeSantis in May of 2023 and sets limitations on sexual education.[8] The bill not only extends the prohibition of classroom discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity to eighth grade, but it also requires materials for sex education be approved by the state.[9] The bill got its nickname “Don’t Say Period” because sexual education cannot be taught until sixth grade, which includes the talk of menstrual cycles.[10] Most girls start their menstrual cycle around 10-13 and when asked, one of the proposers confirmed that girls could not talk about their menstrual cycle if they were not in sixth grade.[11] The same proposer also said that this was not meant to punish little girls.[12]

Florida does not mandate schools to teach sex education but rather are required to teach health education.[13] The current sex education includes the dangers of teen pregnancy as well as the benefits of abstinence.[14] If a school does decide to teach sex education to their students there is still a large emphasis on abstinence instead of consent or safe sex, and the instruction does not need to be medically correct.[15] A comprehensive sexual education system is one that goes into topics like consent, reproduction, contraception, and more that is scientifically accurate.[16] The “Don’t Say Period” bill pushes Florida farther from a comprehensive education as they restrict what age girls can start talking about their menstruation.[17] There are critics of the bill who believe that this will push Florida farther from a comprehensive sex education[18] because instead of embracing new modern ideas of sex and sexuality, schools are stuck with teaching old ways of thinking such as not discussing your period or the different sexualities there are.

This bill is supposed to empower parents to make sure they know what their children are being taught and making sure they are not too young for certain topics.[19] Teachers, however, feel that their power is being taken away because they feel they are the experts.[20] Their knowledge of what students ask about sex and sexuality are, is not being taken into consideration and instead lawmakers are listening to parents who may have never taught before. The Supervisor of Health Services in Alachua County Public Schools talks about this fear saying that the stigma of menstruation may become worse if students are not allowed to talk about it.[21] Studies show that puberty is starting earlier, about a three month drop every decade since 1970. [22] Teachers also fear that students will turn towards their peers who may not give accurate advice.[23] Not getting the correct advice could cause students to not engage in safe sex or have a hatred toward their bodies for not being the same as others online or their peers. Educators will have to try to find a way to support their students in a way that follows the new Florida law and give them safe and accurate advice.[24]

The education system in Florida seems to be changing every few months and teachers are trying to fight back with lawsuits.[25] Teachers want the best for their students but feel that all the new bills Florida is passing on education, the state is not creating a safe space for students. The “Don’t Say Period” bill is the newest hurdle in this battle and awareness of its impact on schools is starting to happen. More advocates are coming out to change the sexual education system in Florida but there is still a long way to go. Maybe someday Florida education will change in favor of a more comprehensive sex education, but for now “Don’t Say Period” is here to stay.

 

[1] Florida Department of Education, https://www.fldoe.org/ (last visited Jan.16, 2024).

[2] H.B. 1557, 2022 Sess. (Fla. 2023), https://www.flsenate.gov/Committees/BillSummaries/2022/html/2825

[3] Meredith Johnson, The Dangerous Consequences of Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” Bill on LGBTQ+ Youth in Florida, Geo. J. Gender L., no.3, 2020, at 1, 1.

[4] Id.

[5] Ileana Najarro, What’s With All the Education News Out of Florida? A Recap of Education Policy Decisions, EducationWeek (Aug. 16, 2023), https://www.edweek.org/policy-politics/whats-with-all-the-education-news-out-of-florida-a-recap-of-education-policy-decisions/2023/08.

[6] Id.

[7] H.B. 1069, 2023 Sess. (Fla. 2023), https://www.flsenate.gov/Committees/BillSummaries/2023/html/3159.

[8] Id.

[9] Id.

[10] Fabiola Cineas, Don’t say “period”: How Florida Republicans are taking aim at basic sex education, Vox (Mar. 24, 2023, 6:30 AM), https://www.vox.com/policy/2023/3/24/23649277/dont-say-period-florida-republicans-restricting-sex-education.

[11] Id.

[12] Id.

[13] State Sex Education Policies and Requirements at a Glance, Sex Education Collaborative https://sexeducationcollaborative.org/states/florida.

[14] Id.

[15] Id.

[16] Comprehensive Sexuality Education, WHO (May 18, 2023), https://www.who.int/news-room/questions-and-answers/item/comprehensive-sexuality-education#:~:text=What%20is%20comprehensive%20sexuality%20education,for%20their%20health%20and%20survival.

[17] Cineas, supra note 9.

[18] Cineas, supra note 9.

[19] Id.

[20] Id.

[21] Amanda Friedman, “Don’t Say Period”. Law restricting K–12 reproductive and sexual health instruction takes effect, The Independent Florida Alligator (July 10, 2023, 8:00 AM), https://www.alligator.org/article/2023/07/desantis-k-12-health-education.

[22] Are Girls Getting Their Periods Earlier, Baton Rouge General Blog (Apr. 13, 2023), https://www.brgeneral.org/news-blog/2023/april/are-girls-getting-their-periods-earlier-/#:~:text=Studies%20show%20that%20puberty%20is,period%20around%2012%20years%20old.

[23] Friedman, supra note 20.

[24] Id.

[25] CBS Miami Team, Florida teachers challenge personal pronoun law, CBS (Dec. 14, 2023, 4:25 PM), https://www.cbsnews.com/miami/news/florida-teachers-challenge-personal-pronoun-law/.