‘Fat letters’ are back

Earlier this year, schools in North Andover, Mass., were under fire for their approach to combating obesity.

Schools were measuring students’ height and weight to determine their body mass indexes. Parents of students with high BMIs received letters from the school informing them their child was classified as “obese.”

But it appears the initiative is gaining momentum. Now, schools in 18 other states are holding annual weigh-ins and issuing BMI reports.

Critics, as well as some parents and kids, call the reports “fat letters.”

Some children who get the letter are as young as 6 or 7 years old, according to a story on Good Morning America.

“The last thing (children) need is the school to now step in … ‘You’re too skinny,’ ‘You’re too fat,'” one parent told GMA.

“I would like to see BMI testing in schools banned,” Claire Mysko of the National Eating Disorders Association told GMA. “For those who are already insecure about their weight, these tests can … potentially trigger an eating disorder.”

According to the Good Morning America story, more than 40 percent of 9- and 10-year-old girls have already been on a diet. As many as 60 percent of all children between the ages of 6 and 12 years old are worried about their weight.

One student interviewed on the new segment said she was already insecure about her weight. Another feared she would be bullied as a result of the letters. And one mother said she’s concerned about the effects on kids entering adolescence.

“Their bodies are changing … And then they get this number that says, ‘Oh, you know, you’re not the right number.’ It’s just a horrible way to start womanhood,” she said.

As far as I know, Clark County schools aren’t issuing BMI reports. Do you think they should?

Marissa Harshman

Marissa Harshman

I'm the health reporter for The Columbian newspaper in Vancouver, Wash. I started at The Columbian -- my hometown newspaper -- in September 2009. Reach me at marissa.harshman@columbian.com or 360-735-4546.

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