Period Pains (dysmenorrhea) need to be a legitimate reason for absence in schools

Period Pains (dysmenorrhea) need to be a legitimate reason for absence in schools

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Marcus Alleyne started this petition to Department for Education

I am the proud father of incredibly courageous, fierce and strong daughters, the eldest of which attends Secondary School. It not only saddens me that I am urged to write to you, but it also raises significant concerns surrounding the physical, mental and social wellbeing of not only my daughters but all people who have periods across the country. 

I'm sure anyone who has had a period would agree, that at some stage, they have suffered significantly from Dysmenorrhoea, yes there is actually a medical term for ‘period pains’. The reason for this terminology is due to its being a globally recognised medical condition, with a variety of treatment approaches, from over the counter pain relief and a hot water bottle to surgical interventions.

By not allowing absences due to Dysmenorrhoea, which you are doing by considering them unauthorised, shows very clear disparities, and registering absences as unauthorised due to a medical condition only affecting women and people who menstruate is a clear demonstration. 

This leads me to the concerns I have surrounding ignorance of the condition, the impact of a CIS male-dominated field within the senior leadership teams in schools, or the sheer disregard for the physical, emotional and academic wellbeing of our pupils.

As the department responsible for Education it baffles me that the following archaic approach is not only alive and well but also continuing to influence practice in 2021 posing a direct risk to our young women, trans, non-binary pupils and everyone pupil has by no choice of theirs own menstruates.

This morning 22nd September 2021, yes 2021, NOT 1821, I needed to contact our school's administration team to report an absence due to a medical condition. The message was brief with no real personal details given. The reason for not divulging the details of the condition is because I was doing so on behalf of my thirteen-year-old daughter, who is not only capable of making her own informed decisions as to what information is shared with others but I would not freely discuss my daughter's health needs without her consent. Frankly, schools should not be requiring such information either, they are not medical professionals, nor would they fully understand the full extent or severity of any condition through a phone call. It is also highly intrusive and asking for the reason is ethically and morally questionable. 

For as long as humankind has walked the planet 50% of the human species have been menstruating, it is not only a completely natural occurrence, but it is crucial to the survival of the human race, fact! It is also a known fact that for centuries this recurring cycle has been seen as a weakness by many, particularly by men, and has resulted in decades of inequality, disparity and inequity for women and those who might be necessarily identify as female but still suffer on a regular basis. We are seeing this in action still, presenting through absence policies and school assemblies. How many young females, trans and non-binary pupils are being dismissed within the education setting, as a result of diminishing their experiences, and unilaterally deciding that their discomfort does not matter. 

This attitude and the rules coming into play are:

  • Not conducive to learning.
  • Not conducive to empowering our young women.
  • Not conducive to creating equity within schools.
  • Damaging the academic prospects, by reducing official records of attendance due to periods. 
  • Clearly showing the disparity between males and marginalised pupils by the reasons an absence will be authorised or unauthorised. 
  • We need to make significant changes not only to the institutions responsible for nurturing our young women and future leaders but also need to educate the prehistoric mindsets of the policy creators and decision-makers. Please sign this petition to start protecting the rights and dignity of our young females within the education setting.

Marcus Alleyne,

Proud father of our fierce, brave and intelligent young daughters.

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