Families & the Community

Obese Students Get Letters Home

By Caroline Cournoyer — November 16, 2010 1 min read
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In an attempt to curb the district’s obesity rates, Flagstaff, Ariz. schools will send letters to all the parents of overweight children, urging them to make lifestyle changes, according to the Arizona Daily Sun.

The letter will recommend good nutrition, exercise, and a doctor’s visit for all overweight, at-risk of becoming overweight, and underweight students, said the Flagstaff Unified School District Superintendent Barbara Hickman.

According to the Sun article, 50 percent of FUSD’s elementary school students will be classified as either overweight or bordering on overweight when all students’ body mass index has been measured.

BMI, though, is not an exact science, said Marilyn Grudniewski, the district’s top nurse, because it does not take into account fat versus muscle, so athletes could be considered overweight.

Superintendent Hickman recognizes that this is a sensitive subject. But with obesity-related diabetes occurring in children as young as four, she said, “We have to say something” even though “it brings up difficult issues and parents can be a little bit offended sometimes.”

Flagstaff elementary school students receive physical education, but not on a daily basis, the Sun reports. And it is unlikely that they will be able to require more, said the FUSD Governing Board member Chris Bavasi.

Meanwhile, parents in Ohio will also receive letters about their children’s weight ranges. As of September, state law requires schools to measure students’ BMI in kindergarten, first, third, fifth, and ninth grades. But almost 200 districts received waivers from the state because they claimed to lack the time and staff to conduct the screenings, according to the Columbus Dispatch.

And just like in Flagstaff, Ohio educators question whether BMI is the best way to assess obesity, reports the Dispatch.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.