June 10 2014
Fat Shaming (Slim) Kids
Along with controlling what kids eat and “informing” them about sex (even when they may be too young to hear it), public schools are now routinely fat shaming kids and “educating” parents about the risks of obesity.
The latest example comes from Staten Island, New York where 9-year-old Gwendolyn Williams read the “fitnessgram” her school sent home, in a “sealed” envelop. The letter let Williams parents know that, according the school’s measurements, their girl is overweight. But take a look at Gwendolyn: does she look fat to you?
Williams was shocked (she’s 4’1” and 66 pounds) and her mom was heartbroken. Not because of the letter but because of how it made her girl feel. And Williams isn’t alone. New York City “sent home these assessments to 870,000 public school students in kindergarten through grade 12.”
The same type of letter was sent around in California, with similar results. Indeed, there were so many concerns about the letters sent to parents that the school district decided to stop doing it.
But not so in Massachusetts, “which has had a weight screening program since 2009” and “is one of 21 states that have implemented statutes or advisories mandating that public schools collect height, weight, and/or BMI (body mass index) information.” In some of those states, the notification advises parents to discuss the findings with a health care provider, which leads to the question: Are public schools really the best place to start a discussion about BMI and weight?
Dr. David Dunkin, an assistant professor of pediatric gastroenterology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, doesn’t think so:
I think it is the primary responsibility of the pediatrician to discuss obesity on a case-by-case basis with the child and the family, and try to help them with life changes… As a pediatrician I often speak to the family about this, and can assist them with advice on what to do to improve their child's health.
Of course, there are other healthcare professionals who argue that schools are the very best place for such activities because they are where a majority of young people spend a lot of their time. So why not make school the place for all sorts of health and welfare discussions and concerns?
The problem with this line of argument is that schools are now involved in so many of these health enterprises, it is a wonder any time at all can be spent on reading and math. And since when did parents revoke their responsibilities for providing for their kids’ welfare when they enroll them in the local public school? A letter from schools informing parents that a signed note from a pediatrician that the student has had an annual wellness visit is required, should be enough to satisfy the bureaucrats and would put the proper onus on parents to do the right thing by working together with the family doctor in their kids’ best interest.