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Dear Parent: Your Kid's Fat


In America's ongoing war against obesity, schools are only one battleground. But they're a controversial one, especially as districts adopt the unproven practice of sending home obesity report cards listing students' body mass index. While the practice is mandated in only a few states—in Pennslyvania, for example, the cards are required for K-8 students—many individual districts have embraced it after hearing about positive results from a small number of programs. But there's more to raising healthy kids than simply reporting obesity, critics contend. In many districts that report BMI to parents, children continue to face inadequate PE time and unhealthy cafeteria food. "It would be the height of irony if we successfully identified overweight kids through BMI screening while continuing to feed them atrocious quality meals and snacks," says David Ludwig, a physician at Boston's Children's Hospital. In addition, parents who receive notice that their children are in the 90th percentile for weight based on their height, age, and gender often don't know what to do with the information. And, surrounded by ever-expanding American waistlines, many parents disagree that their children need to slim down. To truly change students' eating habits, says Marlene Schwartz of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University, schools need to provide "really high-quality nutrition and physical activity assessments." That's a bigger bite than many states and districts can afford to chew.


How about more recess, more time for kids to do what they do best: run around and play?

We're trying to reinvent the wheel. Repeal NCLB, get rid of most of the standardized tests, and give either more recess, or have it twice a day! Kids NEED to have free play time! We've completely forgotten this.

We cannot change what parents do or do not do at home, or what they feed their children at home. What we can change is the increasingly sedentary nature of school.

I can incorporate more movement in my music classes. But basically, kids need to run and play more than they do at school. I am willing to bet they would behave better INSIDE the building if they got OUT of it more often.

Yes, there is an ever increasing problem with obesity in children. However, without providing resources for improvement, sending home a "report card" stating the students' BMI is hurtful and insulting. If the schools do not provide better lunches and more activity time, it is hypocritical as well. As a mom who has battled weight problems my whole life, I also have a son who is overweight. I do not have high fat/sugary snacks or soda at home. I keep fruit and pretzels and other healthy choices on hand. I encourage my son to excercise and move. He walks or rides his bike 2 miles to school and back every school day. And still he is overweight; his BMI is high. If I had received this BMI "report card" from his school...I can't even imagine the hurt he would go through. It is cruel and insensitive. I can guarantee that the parents of overweight kids KNOW they are overweight. We don't need the schools to point out the blatantly obvious, when it really serves no purpose but to hurt a child who is likely already suffering from lowered self-esteem.

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  • Kelly N.: Yes, there is an ever increasing problem with obesity in read more
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