Cornwall dad told daughter's period pain not a legitimate reason for time off school

A Cornwall dad is campaigning for schools to recognise period pains as a legitimate reason for absence.

Marcus Alleyne - who is the father of three girls - says he was left appalled when his 13-year-old daughter Izzy was marked as having an "unauthorised absence", despite feeling ill with period pains.

Marcus - who is a former Royal Navy medic and vice-chair of Black Voices Cornwall - has now, set up a petition for the Department of Education to acknowledge dysmenorrhea (period pains) as a genuine reason for time off school.

The petition received more than 1,000 signatures within six minutes.

Marcus, 37, said: "We have access to education in school, so why is it in 2021 that menstruation is still a stigma, why is it not being discussed?

"The message being put across is 'you need to go to work when you're not feeling well, you have to deliver, suck it up'.

"I think after everything we've encountered during lockdown and the greater understanding and focus on physical and mental health, that message is just twisted.

Marcus set up a petition for the Department of Education to recognise dysmenorrhea as a legitimate reason for absence in schools Credit: Marcus Alleyne

"I'm sure many women 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."

Marcus contacted Izzy’s secondary school to alert them she would be off ill on because of period pains in September.

But he said the school called him 30 minutes later to ask what was wrong and, after he explained she was feeling 'really rotten' and in serious pain, said it was not a legitimate reason for absence.

He said: "If I had said she was suffering a migraine then we wouldn't be having this conversation."

Marcus went on to state he was a "proud father of incredibly courageous, fierce and strong girls".

He went on to question how many young women were being dismissed within the education setting "as a result of diminishing their experiences, and unilaterally deciding that their discomfort does not matter".

He said: "We need to make significant changes not only to the institutions responsible for nurturing our young women and future female leaders but also need to educate the prehistoric mindsets of the policy creators and decision-makers.

"I think some people have been particularly encouraged that it's a dad standing up for young women, but I think that's only because of the way we've been fed - that it's only a "woman's problem", but it's not, it's a social problem.

"For some young women and girls, the process for understanding menstruation starts in schools - and more often that not it's given to a female teacher.

"But why aren't we equipping male teachers with the same advice and support, to understand this? When it comes to making policy, let's be honest - most school's senior leadership is predominantly males."

Marcus said his daughter Izzy has been "really great" about the petition and has read the positive responses from signatories – which has already surpassed 27,000.

He said: "She said there's been conversations amongst her and her peers, raising awareness of it, but I think the most important thing for her is realising that she and her peers, even though they are just 13, they have a voice - a powerful voice.

"The previous generations had that 'children should be seen and not heard' attitude, but these are our future leaders, future doctors, lawyers, refuse workers, builders, musicians."