Well Being

Yeah, Schools Shouldn’t Be Sending Letters About Students’ Weight

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FATletterI've said it before, and I'll say it again: I don't think schools have any business informing parents that their children are overweight. Kristen Grasso, a mom in Naples, Fla., likely agrees with me, considering that she informed her local news station when her 5'5, 124 lb, 11-year-old daughter was sent home with a letter saying that she's overweight.

I think it's pretty clear that an 11-year-old who is 5'5 and 124 lbs isn't overweight, but, regardless, Lily Grasso's weight and Lily Grasso's health and Lily Grasso's body is an issue for Lily and her family, not the school system. Grasso says she received a letter saying that her daughter's BMI classified her as overweight. She says,

“Her percentage falls in at risk and if you go to the Florida Department of Health's website and you read it, it lists her as overweight. Lily is tall, athletic sold muscle, by no means is she overweight. Kids that see results of this test that may be classified as overweight, that aren't, the self-esteem issues that they may get.”

I tend to agree, especially about the self-esteem issue…can you imagine being a tween girl who learns that her school (and school system!) has deemed her overweight? Ugh. Something about this practice, while I'm sure it's rooted in a desire to make schools and students healthier, seems like it's inherently problematic. Why and how are schools weighing children? Was Lily told her weight? Was it done in confidence? This practice raises so many questions for me, both about sensitivity and legality.

Grasso says that she was told her daughter would be screened for vision, hearing, growth and development and didn't know weight would be involved; The Florida Health Department says the screenings are mandated by law and that parents can opt out if they want to. Fair enough, perhaps Grasso should have opted out for her daughter. But I'd be interested to be know how much of what would be involved in the health screenings was disclosed to students' families; Is it possible to opt out only of the BMI portion or is consenting to it consenting to all of it?

In addition to the fact that the BMI formula is pretty much inherently flawed (and not applicable to every person), I really don't think that schools should be policing the health (and weights) of their students. While I see the benefit of a school system getting involved with students' health, especially in a country with a confirmed childhood obesity epidemic, I'll never be convinced that schools should be involved in this specific way.

What do you think? Should schools be testing and disclosing students' BMIs? Or do you think this practice is just a little bit inappropriate?

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