Florida has always been notoriously antagonistic towards its female student-athletes—especially in policing trans girls and their participation in youth sports. But several of Florida’s school districts have now taken privacy violations to an entirely new level.
For nearly two decades, Florida schools have asked student-athletes about their periods, a practice that the Palm Beach Post calls optional. It’s part of a larger annual physical form that doctors across the country use to clear kids for sports. But on Tuesday, Jacksonville.com reported that Florida’s student-athletes will now have to fill out that form online—meaning information that was once in paper form will be stored by schools, subject to subpoena, and digitally reported through a third party. In a post-Roe world, parents and doctors are worried about what this information is being used for and why it’s being collected in the first place.
“I don’t see why (school districts) need that access to that type of information,” Dr. Michael Haller, a pediatric endocrinologist who has two teenagers, told Jacksonville.com. “It sure as hell will give me pause to fill it out with my kid.”
In addition to other health questions, the form asks student-athletes five intimate questions about their periods, including at what age they started menstruating and when they had their last period. Florida districts including Palm Beach, Broward, Hillsborough, and Sarasota counties will now store this sensitive data regarding the health and bodies of minors on a digital platform operated by a third party, Aktivate. The software company, founded by former News Corp. executive Jon Miller, has only existed for a little over a year.
Most states don’t require schools to keep information on a student’s entire medical history, generally requiring only a doctor’s signature page that clears the athlete to play. Doctors who work with the Palm Beach school district confirmed that the summary page is the only one that should be shared with the school district. But in Florida, according to Jacksonville.com, all of the medical data is turned over to the school. While Aktivate says the student information will be kept secure and confidential, critics noted that the company is not run by a medical care provider, meaning it’s also not protected by HIPAA laws. If subpoenaed, Aktivate would have to turn over the information. Even more concerning, Palm Beach County School District, for example, keeps the full medical history packets on file for seven years.
“I think we’re all on edge right now,” one doctor told the outlet, adding that he had “little faith” the students’ information would be kept private.
Tracking the timing, nature, or even existence of high school girls’ periods is ringing major reproductive and privacy alarm bells for students, parents, and doctors alike. Under the shadow of the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe, young women and people with periods have been warned about reporting their menstrual data in apps that could turn user data over to police in response to a “court order, law or legal process.” But in a state as explicitly anti-abortion and anti-trans as Florida, the idea of a public institution getting their hands on digitally recorded and readily accessible information about which students are having periods or not is horrifying.
Florida’s war on trans girls in sports, and on women’s bodies in general, seems to be feigning concern for the health and livelihood of its students. But we know this to be untrue: The state has already banned abortion after 15 weeks. And earlier this year, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ (R) administration asked a state medical board to ban gender-affirming therapies and surgeries for minors. This was never about protecting students in sports, but about making it easier to track, control, and report them.