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Is Getting a “Fat Letter” from Your Kid’s School So Terrible?

file0001782435234A recent article on HLN asks, “Are schools fat-shaming kids with these letters?” A school in Massachusetts is catching flack for sending home letters with the results of a BMI screening, much like they would for a vision, hearing, or scoliosis screening. They’re learning that’s okay to send home a notice alerting parents that their child failed the hearing screening which may indicate a problem and should receive further evaluation, but it’s not okay to let a parent know that their child’s BMI falls into the overweight or obese category which may indicate a problem and warrants further evaluation. Because that may be insulting. It may hurt the child’s feelings. You can’t go around alerting parents to their child’s potentially increased risks of diabetes, heart disease, etc. that come with being overweight. It might damage Junior’s precious self-esteem if he thinks he’s fat.

Please, look at a copy of the so-called “fat letter” HERE. Note the wording. Yet, according to the article, Tracy Watson, mother of a 10-year-boy whose BMI fell into the 95% percentile, complained that they were “offended by the letter, and bothered that a number of children went to bed that night not feeling great about themselves.” She claims her son is athletic (football, martial arts, wrestling) and that BMI is not an accurate picture of his health. Gee, it’s a good thing she actually READ the letter, especially this part: BMI may not tell the whole story about your child’s weight. Other things can affect your child’s BMI. For example, BMI cannot tell the difference between muscle and fat. An athletic child with a lot of muscle may have a high BMI but not be overweight.

I think she’s right. Schools shouldn’t offend families by showing concern over potential health problems. That’s crazy! Instead, they should send home letters to Mom and Dad stating that their child is perfect in every way. Children should be made to invite the entire class to their birthday party lest anyone feel left out. If one child is given and award or a trophy for an achievement, then each and every child should receive an award or a trophy so they don’t feel bad about themselves. A child with Ds and Fs on his report card shouldn’t feel any less amazing than the child who worked for and earned straight As. In fact, I think schools should completely change the way they issue report cards too. It’s horrible when Junior comes home with anything less than an A. Kids all over the country go to bed not feeling great about themselves when they bring home bad grades. It’s a travesty, really. Kids shouldn’t bring home the grades that they earn. They should all be given As to protect their feelings and make sure they feel good about their mediocrity.

And for those who say that schools shouldn’t be involved in any health screenings to begin with, I think you’re right. The fact that numerous kids in my school (and many schools across the nation) don’t receive adequate health for a variety of reasons doesn’t matter. If Mom and Dad can’t afford to take Junior to the doctor, too bad. If Mom works 3 jobs to make ends meet because Dad is in jail so she doesn’t have time to take Junior to the doctor, tough luck. Each man for himself, is what I say. No one should be responsible for anyone else, and schools need to stick to teaching, not looking out for the well-being of its students.

Or maybe, just maybe, we can stop complaining about every damn thing. Maybe we can learn to take constructive criticism in the vein in which it’s intended. Maybe we can stop worrying so much about Junior’s fragile self-esteem and we can teach Junior that for every action there is a consequence. Just a thought.

Read more of Dawn’s writing at Because I Said So here.
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