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Palm Beach school board calls on FHSAA to stop asking students for health info

soccer player kicks ball .
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The FHSAA is a nonprofit, voluntary organization that supervises and regulates high school sports competition in Florida.

The response comes after learning about a form the association requires students fill out before playing sports. It includes questions about genitalia and menstrual cycles. There is concern health privacy could be violated.

Palm Beach County school board members are calling on the Florida High School Activities Association to stop making students disclose personal medical information.

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 after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June ended federal protections for abortions.

The school board’s response comes after the Palm Beach Post published an article about the form the FHSAA requires students fill out and return to their school before playing sports. It includes questions about genitalia and menstrual cycles.

At a special school board meeting Wednesday, 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.

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 some parents this year when the district decided to move it online, where the information would be managed by a new 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 questionnaire, saying that all that’s needed is for a health care 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 district.

The FHSAA is a nonprofit, voluntary organization that supervises and regulates high school sports in Florida. Based in Gainesville, it is a member of the National Federation of State High School Associations.

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 has been a concern since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade, a 1973 case that guaranteed federal protection for abotions. That decision, in the case Dobbs v Jackson Women's Health, empowered some states to criminalize the procedure.

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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As a Tallahassee native, Kate Payne grew up listening to WFSU. She loves being part of a station that had such an impact on her. Kate is a graduate of the Florida State University College of Motion Picture Arts. With a background in documentary and narrative filmmaking, Kate has a broad range of multimedia experience. When she’s not working, you can find her rock climbing, cooking or hanging out with her cat.