The letters do not use the terms "skinny" or "fat." They use the medically appropriate term for the child's BMI (underweight, normal weight, overweight or obese). Parents have the option of opting out of these sort of screenings for their children.
I very much agree with the poster who wrote that overweight is the new normal. So many kids are overweight/obese these days that we look at them and think that they look normal weight. Overweight is starting to look normal to us as a society. I watched the video of the child who got the letter sent home and whose parents think he's normal but has a high BMI due to a high muscle mass. I watched closely and what I saw was a child who is actually overweight but whose excess weight is covered by a large, baggy, shirt. He may be active, but he's not a high-powered athlete with a bunch of extra muscle that's making him have that high BMI. I think that his parents really are just in denial.
This is interesting - I hadn't heard of school districts doing that before.
As someone who's not a parent, I do have one question. Sometimes we try to pretend we're not overweight, even when we know that we are. We ignore it, hide it, pretend it's not true - but then sometimes finally accept it when a doctor or someone else says it flat out. Do parents ever do the same thing with their kids, and maybe need a wake-up call?
Also, it seems like most of the responses have been about the "fat" letters - what do people think about the "underweight" letters? I'm guessing the school has something of a responsibility to follow up on signs of an eating disorder or concern that a child is dangerously underweight (is that correct?).
Fitness Minutes: (3,513)
233 3/3/13 8:46 A
I like honesty and in our everybody gets a trophy world, it is a good thing that this information should b relayed honestly.
I am going to assume we're all posting our opinions here so here goes mine:
RE: Sending letters home to parents about their child's health. This is a good thing. If I were an insecure parent I might take the letter as a direct attack on my parenting skills but I'm not, I'm fairly secure in my abilities to take care of my children.
If the letter would include something about my school taxes were going to be higher than others because of my child being overweight then I'd have an issue with that.
I'm a nanny for 3 kids, and their school did the same thing. However, some genious put in incorrect info when they were generically calculating their BMI's, and sent home a letter saying the 6 year old was OBESE. Hahaha, he is absolutely not obese, and his parents even took him to the doctor who assured them not only is he not obese, but he's not even overweight. I thought the whole thing was ridiculous.
Fitness Minutes: (1,220)
110 3/2/13 9:04 P
I think that my obsession with the scale started in Elem. school when we had height and weight day and scoliosis checks. They would call out your height and weight. I was the tallest girl in my grade and the heaviest. No one ever explained that I was just fine for my height. I would get teased and it created a lifelong battle which first started with being way too thin and now morbidly obese. I think the schools should be very careful in how any child is "notified" about their weight and that it be done by someone knowledgeable. Ideally, it should be done between the parent and the pediatrician.
Canada has Universal Health Care ... and probably no big corn or wheat farm lobbies, either ... the government has to put their backside behind every nannyism, because they are subsidizing from both ends!
Fitness Minutes: (76,885)
2,953 3/2/13 10:46 A
ANARIE nailed it on the head with her post. I too was in elementary school 40 years ago and this practice occured then along with hearing and vision. Personally, if it takes a letter from the school to get parents to notice that their child is past the "baby fat" stage and bordering on obesity, then so be it! The results aren't published -- goes to the parent. Yet there is culpability on the school cafeterias -- you can't serve crap and then turn around and tell a parent their child has a weight issue -- takes a village people to help out!
Now here in Ontario, Canada -- The Premier of the Province along with the Education and Health MLA's, enacted a whole new set of guidelines for Hot Lunches at school which are very strict. Each school gets 10 free days per school year to serve whatever they want ie. hot dogs. As Parent Council Chair for my son's school (like the US PTA Pres) I am responsible to ensure we do not run over the 10 days......so we plan the whole school year hot lunches and we offer an online service called LUNCH LADY who prepares all organic, allergen free food and we make no profit but that is fine as we have made it available.
Of the 10 days, that includes bake sales, SPecial Events etc......so we plan very carefully. The High School almost had a revolt when all the pop machines were taken out and all cafeteria menu overhauled. The problem is that schools are depending on that money for operating capital when they shouldn't.
As a newly diagnosed Type 2 diabetic who had a BMI between 23 and 26 for years before my diagnosis, I have to chime in that too many diseases are thought to be caused by obesity; when in fact it is at best a correlation.
JUST FOR THE RECORD, I had drawn some unlucky cards in the heredity sweepstakes. Seventeen years ago, I had hereditary hyperlipemia and dyslipidemia and was put on low to moderate doses of statin drugs, which I never went off of. The FDA is looking in to this.
Read here, what the drug companies do not want you to know:
That will be the day when STIGMA is removed from being overweight and obese.
Moral of the story: My permanent record in the New York City public schools had followed me all the way to college (guidance counselor had let me look)--yes, I was a college-bound, competitive student. It said, and I quote: "Thirty pound weight gain in one year. Is not accepted by the other pupils."
Fitness Minutes: (1,201)
205 3/2/13 2:18 A
As a former fat kid who became a currently fat adult, I don't get the outrage. I remember reading that some absurd seeming number of parents of fat and not just pudgy, but honest to god fat kids think their child is normal weight or even underweight. This probably has something to do with fat being the "new normal." I was pretty much the heaviest kid I knew and my mom was the heaviest adult I knew as a kid, but now I see lots of kids who are heavier than I was then and my mom seems relatively normal, as I see people her size all the time.
It seems like a lot of parents in America want to eat their cake and have it too when it comes to their kids. They don't want the government, the schools, the doctor, etc telling them they are doing something wrong with their kids, but they also want to blame their busy schedule, the junk in the school lunch program, lack of p.e., video games, t.v., fast food or whatever for their kid being fat.
The schools have kids for a big chunk of their waking hours. I would think most parents would be thrilled for any assistance on getting their kids healthier, but instead every time they try to do something to address the issue there's outrage over OMG they can't tell my kid what to eat! or OMG they can't tell me my kid is fat!
As someone up thread said, it's just a freakin letter, they aren't sewing a scarlet F to your kid's school uniform.
Please, like this is something new? Forty years ago when I was in elementary school, the school sent home a little card with each child's height and weight four times a year. They also tested hearing and vision, and sent home a letter if your kid couldn't see or hear. I got the "Your kid is blind as a bat; go buy her some glasses, for pete's sake" letter in third grade, and it WAS necessary. Even though my mother had gone extremely nearsighted at the same age, she still missed the signs when it happened to me.
Weight/obesity is the same type of thing. It's a slow-onset health issue that parents really can miss. I was an overweight child, but the little height/weight card didn't actually say that. My parents thought I was just a little chubby and it was cute, and I would probably grow out of it. If the card had said "A BMI between 19 and 25 is considered healthy. A BMI between 25.5 and 30 is considered overweight. A BMI greater than 30 is considered obese. Your child's BMI is 30," they would have been forced to realize that I had gotten beyond "pleasingly plump" and they probably would have stopped giving me desserts three times a day. In fact, if my mom, who was overweight herself, had gotten a letter that said, "Your child's weight is probably going to affect her the rest of her life, and may even shorten her lifespan," I would lay odds that she would have taken a good, hard look at herself and changed the whole family's lifestyle, so she might not be fighting diabetes herself now.
It doesn't help when people say, "Oh, this school district is GRADING kids on how attractive they are and calling some of them FAT!!!! They're humiliating the children!!!!!"
That's not what they're doing at all. They are informing the parents of FACTS about their children's weight and height, compared to statistical averages. Sending home a letter that says "Your child's BMI is 30. We recommend consulting with a medical professional" is no more of a "humiliation" than sending home a letter that says, "Your child's eyesight was measured at approximately 20/240. We recommend consulting with an eye doctor."
You know what this discussion shows me? It shows me that even HERE, in a community dedicated to weight control, where nearly everyone has been or still is overweight or obese, there's a huge amount of anti-fat prejudice. Even here, people are treating obesity as such a terrible thing that it can't even be named. You would expect the school to speak up if they realized before you did that your child was nearsighted, dyslexic, hearing-impaired, allergic to cheap institutional hand soap, or starting her period way too early. But obesity? OMG, no! How dare they say such a horrible thing?! Forget that it's the clinical term for a serious health issue; "obese" is a bad word. It's fine for the school to address any other health condition, but not that one.
As was exposed in the tv series 'JAIME OLIVER'S FOOD REVOLUTION', the school lunch program needs to be examined and revised. So does the policy on vending machines in schools. No question. Even kids in the healthy range don't benefit from that type of junk food.
Trying to start programs which foster 'preventive care' is a lot more effective that having people deal with lifelong illnesses.
Edited by: SHERYLDS at: 3/1/2013 (23:00)
Fitness Minutes: (35,973)
5,981 3/1/13 9:39 P
I've heard a couple of people say, "it's just a piece of paper", but I'm going to have to reiterate that a child's weight is between the parent/guardian, the child, and the child's pediatrician. The school has no place in this.
Keep in mind that as the same school sends out fat letters, they also consider french fries a vegetable, use pink slime in their hamburgers, and allow parties with cupcakes and chips.
OKAY - I have never been a parent, but I'd like to add, when I myself had been a kid, I'd come from a very dysfunctional family, with a depressed mother and borderline, non-providing-for-the-household father ... they were separated, so in essence a single-parent household.
I had been obese since early childhood. Don't think the teachers hadn't rubbed it in my face. People around my mother rubbed my body shape in my mother's face when she had brought me shopping.
Either the school is part of the solution or just adds to the problem.
Fitness Minutes: (14,140)
156 3/1/13 10:25 A
I'm guessing sending those "type" letters has to do with trying to get our kids in shape, however, not everyone fits into what may be considered normal or average weight. I think sending a letter is a bit overboard.
As a school nurse I have to respond. There was some talk within out district about having the school nurses get involved in this way. Our first thought was it is the parents responsibility to oversee their child's nutrition as far as their weight is concerned and we should not be telling parents that their children are overweight or obese. We can do everything we can on our end to teach and enforce a healthy lifestyle, but that is no something you can force on people. If a parent came to us individually and asked for help we would certainly go out of our way to assist that parent and child in any way we can, but in the long run I think that is a very tender subject where children are concerned and should be kept private. I too went through that with my own child, but I was aware of what she was eating and doing for exercise and kept close tabs on it along with her pediatrician. Low and behold once she reached puberty and grew the obesity was no longer a problem.
Oh come on, it's just a notification letter, it's not a public shaming ceremony. The parents can make of it what they will - probably the best thing would be to ask the kid's pediatrician for an opinion. If they think their kid has an obese BMI because he has bizarrely high amounts of muscle, they can ignore the letter, or (much better) double check that with a doctor. All of us at SP know how extremely hard it is to gain muscle mass and how difficult it is to skew BMI with muscle unless using steroids or years of bodybuilding. The parents of overweight/obese kids may not have realized it; they may be overweight/obese themselves.
no one likes what they consider unsolicited advice, but people complain when doctors, schools, and caregivers don't say anything, as well as, when they do. YOU obviously are health conscious (since you use Spark) but some parents are clueless. And even when some parents have trouble buying clothes that fit their kids, they still don't see it...until it is extreme. As uncomfortable as getting a letter may be...it is easier to address the obesity issue sooner rather than later. And if you already know there is a problem, then the letter is just a piece of paper.
It's going to take all parties involved to educate the family as well as the kids. this is a huge problem with no easy solution
Edited by: SHERYLDS at: 3/1/2013 (09:29)
Fitness Minutes: (35,973)
5,981 3/1/13 8:43 A
I'm so glad someone brought up this topic. I live in Miami, Florida, and last year, my child came home with a "fat letter". I can't believe that people think this is new. I hate the fact that they weigh our kids in school. There are other tests, let's say, so an eye exam, or scoliosis, that parents are informed before hand, so you can opt out. This one we are sabotaged by. Then they have the school nurse send home a letter informing you that your child's BMI is too high, and is considered obese. Thank goodness the school told me, because I was oblivious to my child's weight problem. Because every time we take her shopping for clothes, she can't zip up the zipper, or even pull the jeans, shorts and skirts over her hips. Or that the cool new sneakers all her friends are wearing that are knee high won't zip up either, because her calves are larger than most other girls her age, and we have to leave the store with her in tears. Gee, I was clueless.
Really, I have 4 kids. The first 3 are normal weight. My last however, is considered obese. I feed her a healthy diet, but she has a real sugar addiction. We are working on the problem, She is active, and has way more energy than I do. I don't need the school meddling where they have no business. The worst part was, that when I ignored the letter, they sent another copy home. And then a third in case I didn't get the first 2. Seriously obnoxious.
Fitness Minutes: (157,247)
10,396 3/1/13 8:16 A
That sounds just plan AWFUL!!! I hope the angry parents are successful in making appropriate changes. I mean how about the schools working with families to maintain/establish health lifestyles.
schools in North Andover, MA are now sending letters home with kids who are considered underweight, overweight, and obese according to their BMI. This is especially [bs] because letters home in grade school are supposed to be for awesome stuff like field trips and getting the A-OK to consume birthday cupcakes. Thankfully, some parents are pissed about this, and they're fighting back.
Two of these parents belong to Cameron Watson, an adorable ten-year-old student/MMA mini-fighter who was sent home with one of the scarlet fat letters. Anyone who spends two minutes observing this active kid could tell you he's not obese; he's fit. It's a classic case of the BMI not accounting for muscle mass, and instead forcing everyone into its rigid, draconian chart. Further, even if he was a fat kid, don't you think everyone in his world would know that by, er, looking at him? He doesn't walk around all day wearing a garbage bag, and most everyone has eyeballs and brains. Seems pretty simple.
Is sending letters home informing parents that their fat kids are fat really a necessary step? For those who argue that some people don't know their kids are fat/don't understand proper nutrition/are confused by exercise — then wouldn't it be better to focus on these things for all parents and kids? What about sending a letter home that says "Hey, kids are unhealthier than ever, and here's some ways to improve your lives." And if we're so serious about helping kids become healthy, why not provide workshops, counseling, and other resources to help parents of all kids practice good nutrition and physical fitness at home?
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