Wednesday, September 11, 2013

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

A 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 it'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  care 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.


Cindy said...

I believe one (one!) of the things wrong with this nation is that we get too offended. Everything offends us! And we fight and we sue... it's sad. Maybe the school will find a way to present the BMI info, along with the other info. Maybe the parents will find a way to NOT take offense...

Anonymous said...

Bravo Dawn!!! I am 26 and have no kids, but my mother raised me to take personal responsibility for myself. She taught me to "tough up" when I was confronted with constructive criticism and to be real and honest with myself. For that, I am now a strong woman, and I'm not afraid of being judged or being in last place, etc. You get out of this world what you put it, and if you didn't win a trophy then try harder next time. It is rewarding to earn things for yourself and it creates a genuine sense that you have control over your life! I highly recommend hard work and getting your feelings hurt. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger!

Sonia said...

I'm pretty sure that when a fat kid goes to sleep at night, he/she KNOWS they are fat. A letter home to their parents on a serious health issue like that won't become "the last straw" in their journey of life. They have plenty of other people around them; ie. cruel classmates, the media, teachers, neighbors, everyone in their community; to make sure they know it. Just like I had a reminder about 1000 times a day that I was short, or ran slow, or had freckles, and failed to do my homework, life tells you of your shortcomings. Repeatedly.

This note home is just a school district attempting to do what so many parents are failing at, which is working to keep kids healthy. And I don't mean to say that parents of overweight children are the cause, or are to blame or are bad parents. My kids are skinny but that has about 2% to do with my parenting and 98% to do with the kid. I applaud the school for this attempt and agree with others here that people need to grow some testicles or some ovaries and get over it. This is life, it is HARD, and we are all in it together. Get over yourselves. :)

Anonymous said...

You will probably tell me to get over this, but frankly, I'm upset by the careless way you talk about 'precious self-esteem'.
I realize these letters have the child's best interest at heart, but is it really necessary to humiliate them?
I was a chubby child and I remember one fantastic day in particular when each kid in my class was weighed in front of everybody else. Yeah, I totally overreacted when I felt hurt when my teacher suggested I skip lunch.
The constant feeling of being worthless led to my becoming anorexic, which took years of therapy to fix. I can tell you that a bunch of people berating you on your body can cause worse harm than just slightly hurt feelings.
I've seen that side and I'd like to ask you: What about mental well-being?
Maybe, just maybe, we can stop bullying human beings for not looking like photoshopped movie stars. Maybe we can learn that it is not our right to make somebody else feel like a hideous sub-human. Maybe we can sit down and think hard for five minutes to come up with an idea that will help kids stay healthy AND prevent them from feeling like a piece of crap. Just a thought.

Dawn said...

Well, anonymous, no one said anything about humiliating, berating, or bullying a child for not looking like a Photoshopped movie star. This is about sending home an innocuous letter, informing parents of their child's BMI and letting them decide how best to take care of the situation. Nothing more.

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