Athletics association may stop asking students for personal health info

Published on October 14, 2022 at 10:41 am

Palm Beach County school board members are calling on a state sports organization to stop making students disclose personal medical information – including about their menstrual cycles.

The practice has prompted outcry from parents and advocates who say students’ health privacy could be violated, at a time when breaches of personal medical records could carry grave consequences in a post-Roe v. Wade world.

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The school board’s response comes after the Palm Beach Post published an article about the form that the Florida High School Athletics Association (FHSAA) requires students fill out and return to their school before playing sports – which includes questions about boys’ genitalia and girls’ periods.

At a special school board meeting on Wednesday, Board Chair Frank Barbieri said there is no reason for the school system to know those details.

“Those kinds of questions, I mean, I don’t even know why we need to know that. And nor does the FHSAA need to know that. Nor do our coaches or our schools need to know that,” he said.

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Board Member Alexandria Ayala said it’s vital that private medical records be kept private.

“This is information that should be between a doctor and a patient,” Ayala said. “So I’m looking forward to advocating for that.”

The form, which has been used for years, angered parents this year when the School District of Palm Beach County decided to move it online, where the information would be managed by a newly-formed software company called Aktivate.

The district has since announced families can continue to submit a paper form instead.

But school board members are urging the FHSAA to revise the entire questionnaire, saying that all that’s needed is for a healthcare provider to confirm whether students are healthy enough to play. According to Barbieri, the decision to revise the form is up to the FHSAA, not the school district.

Speaking at Wednesday’s meeting, FHSAA board member and former state legislator Ralph Arza said he plans to submit an agenda item on the issue for the organization’s November meeting.

“I will say, the Florida High School Athletics Association, in order to clear an athlete for competition, that’s all that should be there,” Arza said in reference to a doctor’s confirmation. “We do not need anything else.”

School Board Member Marcia Andrews encouraged coaches and parents to attend the FHSAA meeting to voice their concerns.

“We need to coordinate with the athletic directors, some of the coaches, coming from all across the state and the big districts,” Andrews said. “We need to get this removed.”

Medical privacy – particularly when it comes to reproductive health – is of even greater concern after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right to an abortion, empowering some states to criminalize the procedure and prosecute patients.

Advocates are increasingly worried about how period tracker apps and other personal data could be used to build a criminal case against patients.

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