A student-athlete physical evaluation containing student’s reproductive health data drew criticism from parents and advocates earlier this week when it became clear that the software used to collect the information was not one guaranteed to protect student privacy — particularly in the aftermath of Roe v Wade being overturned.
The physical evaluation form (available online), which according to the Palm Beach Post had been used by Florida schools for several years, included optional questions about menstruation that are, generally, questions doctors and healthcare providers might ask: “When was your first menstrual period? When was your most recent menstrual period? How much time do you usually have from the start of one period to the start of another? How many periods have you had in the last year? What was the longest time between periods in the last year?”
The issue, however, for parents at the Palm Beach County School District was seeing that this information was going to be shared directly with the schools via the software Aktivate — a start-up co-founded by former-AOL CEO Jon Miller that signed a three year licensing deal with the district.
Coaches and parents had a few critiques of the software and its effects on accessibility for student athletes (particularly those in marginalized communities) as well as additional hurdles compared the previous hard-copy methods of turning in eligibility paperwork, according to the Palm Beach Post.
However, this additional issue of menstruation data had parents also concerned about the long- and short-term privacy of their kids — particularly as Florida is a state that bans abortions after 15 weeks, a period of time before many people even know they are pregnant (particularly if they have irregular periods).
Hesky Kutscher, CEO of Aktivate, spoke at a school board meeting in August to assure parents that their service prioritized privacy and offered “high security and high privacy for all the information that is put into our system — far bigger security, by the way, than paper.”
However, the digitization of this data also runs contrary to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advisement that forms containing medical history and examination data shouldn’t be shared directly with schools for the sake of patient privacy. Instead, it’s advised that the necessary information — whether a student athlete is healthy and eligible to play their sport — be shared without it offering up the entirety of their HIPAA-protected health information to a third-party service.
Parents aren’t overreacting if they see information compilation like this as a red flag or want more of a commitment to privacy, as Will Owen, Surveillance Technology Oversight Project (STOP) Communications Director told SheKnows via email. After all, there are documented cases of tech companies working with police to criminalize people who are pregnant, miscarrying or otherwise trying to navigate the draconian post-Roe barriers to healthcare.
“Florida’s questionnaires about student athletes’ menstrual cycles were invasive, misogynistic, and transphobic to begin with. But after Governor DeSantis’ appalling attacks on transgender youth and Florida’s 15-week abortion ban, they are a ticking time bomb. Post-Roe, law enforcement can use all American surveillance infrastructure to track pregnant people where abortion has been criminalized,” Owen said. “Aktivate, which isn’t subject to HIPAA, is introducing yet another repository of sensitive reproductive health data that could be subpoenaed at any moment. We’ve already seen how willing third parties are to collude with police in criminalizing pregnant people, as in the case of Meta in Nebraska. There’s no reason to believe Aktivate would behave any differently.”
On Thursday, the school district did announce that they have heard these concerns and reached out to the Florida High School Athletic Association to alter the form to remove these optional questions and, as a spokesperson for the district told NBC News, they would “continue to explore other options, such as lobbying for revisions to this form and/or limiting the information provided to schools to solely the physician’s approval or disapproval of the student-athlete’s medical clearance.”
As the privacy protections and access to reproductive healthcare continues to vary depending on the state you live in post-Roe, it’s more important than ever that parents feel empowered to speak up and protect their kids’ and teens’ health data and, ultimately, their privacy.
Before you go, check out the stories of celebrities who have had abortions and shared their stories:
Source: Read Full Article