Your kid is fat. Imagine receiving a letter from your child’s school stating this. Not exactly in those words, but this is what Pennsylvania and New Jersey schools are now doing.
During hearing and vision screenings, students are also weighed, and if they don’t make the grade, letters are sent home. The letters place the students in categories based on their body mass index.
The government has set a target to halt the rise in obesity among children under the age of 11 by 2010.
This program may spawn outrage among parents who believe it is cruel or too personal a matter for the school to interfere with. Actually, it would be cruel for the school not to step in when a child may be on his or her way to diabetes, high cholesterol or heart failure.
The school is considered a second caretaker
– the student is in the school’s care for six hours a day. If the parents cannot fulfill their duty to keep their children healthy, then why should the school be an accomplice? It is the school’s responsibility to at least advise parents and provide ways to battle the health risk.
It is imperative that this program is implemented in all schools. America is the fattest country in the world. Kids are getting bigger and physical activity is almost non-existent. It is no longer uncommon for a child to avoid competitive school sports.
A third of U.S. children and teens – about 25 million – are either overweight or on the verge of becoming so, according to “USA Today.”
This is the highest number ever recorded,
according to a government survey.
What kind of lifestyle are these children going to lead? Why should a 10-year-old struggle to run a relay race? Children are supposed to be nimble, not gasping for breath after climbing one flight of steps or minding their daily sugar intake because
they are diabetic. This can be avoided. If parents do their job, then these ominous letters would not exist.
The school should not be faulted for trying to aid them. The problem has become so urgent that the government is actually giving parents money to keep their children fit. Under new plans to help tackle obesity, the federal government has proposed to pay parents to have their children cycle to school rather than take the bus. The government said the proposals would improve school transport, cut congestion and encourage children to lead more active lives. Applause, applause.
The government is taking on an altruistic initiative that calls for cooperation from the parents and the school.
A recent article in the “New York Times” pointed out that these letters may have unintended consequences such as child eating disorders, social stigma and low self-esteem.This may happen, but these reasons should not stop the policy because there are ways to be discreet. A call to the parent can be used in lieu of a letter.
Non-distinguishable stationery can be used so the child does not suspect it is a letter from the school nurse.
Penn Alexander Elementary in Philadelphia
is implementing the mandatory program during the 2006-2007 school year.
“All school districts should participate in the state mandated program,” said school nurse Jodi West-Booker. “The letters have not gotten any negative reactions because the letter is not punitive. It lists things you can do to stay healthy.”
The letter states the student’s BMI and places him or her within a percentile of what is underweight, healthy or overweight.
This is helpful and does not have a mean-spirited nature.
It is necessary.
*Part 1 in a 2-part series.
Dashira Harris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org