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School Separates Students Based on Fitness Level for Phys. Ed. Classes

At one suburban Chicago high school, certain students are now being separated into what some call "fat gym" based on their fitness level, the Chicago Tribune reports.

The Mt. Pleasant, Ill.-based Prospect High School adopted a new physical education curriculum at the beginning of the 2012-13 school year, according to the Tribune, and it's drawn a mixed reaction. Students assigned to the "lower"-level class are taught the new curriculum.

"It was weird at first—they're separating us," sophomore James Farquharson told the paper. "It was like a division of the fat kids and the thin kids."

Sophomores, juniors, and seniors at the school take a fitness assessment at the end of the fall and spring semesters that determines whether they'll be placed in the regular phys. ed. class or the "lower" class during the next semester. Those placed in the regular phys. ed. class have the freedom to choose their sports and activities each day, according to the paper, while students who score lower on the fitness assessment face a mandatory cardiovascular-focused program for three days per week.

Roughly half the school's 1,800 students are in the lower class, school officials told the paper.

On Monday, FOX Chicago News asked its Facebook fans to share their thoughts about such a curriculum. Supporters raised the point about students being separated based on aptitude in academic classes such as math, history, or English, and asked why the same shouldn't happen for physical education. Critics, meanwhile, suggested that separating students based on fitness level could stigmatize those in the "lower" phys. ed. class, creating easy material for bullies to target.

Forbes.com's Bob Cook summed up the debate well the other day:

"If separating kids into gym and 'fat gym' helps students overall get in better shape, then I don't see a problem with it. If you design school curricula around the fear of who gets teased when, you'll never be able to come up with anything, what with how creative kids are in ragging on each other."

What say you, readers? Do you think the potential benefits of creating separate phys. ed. classes based on fitness level outweigh the potential negatives?

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