Saturday, October 13, 2007

Dear Parent: Your Kid Is Fat - Sincerely, The Principal

Just in case Denver Public school parents hadn't been paying attention to their child's physique, their local school is letting them know that their kids are fat, and what's incredible is that the notices are being sent home with the kids in their backpacks.

Parents were concerned that such sensitive information was being sent home casually along with other notices. They could have been dropped on the street and picked up by other students. There has been much controversy about this practice.
"[One] mother does not have a problem with what the schools are trying to do. She says that type of sensitive information should be mailed directly home to parents, because kids are prone to reading letters sent home by the schools.

"If [my daughter] would have dropped this letter, a student may have found it and may have exposed it to other students," said [the mother]. "Anything specific to the child should be mailed. It should not be given to the child."

One child read the notice and got rather upset.
Gee, now that's could be a great way to create a bunch of anorexic kids.

Junk Food Science talks a bit about how wrong it is to make our kids so crazy over their weight, and that we shouldn't make them obsess over food. Here is one such post.

I am not disputing that childhood obesity - and even adult obesity - is a problem, but so is creating kids who are too mindful of their body image, and what they eat or don't eat. We also have too many young kids who are "on a diet". That's not healthy either.

Now the $64,000 question is this: Should the school be involved in a child's health in this manner at all? (Isn't it bad enough that they have gotten into the mental health business as well?) I wonder if schools can be considered practicing medicine without a license by doing these kinds of screenings.

I think we have an issue of whether or not schools should meddle in our children's health like this. Is it their place to do so? Do they think that parents do not know that their kids are fat - or even too skinny? Is this school also sending home notes to parents whose kids are too thin?

And here are a few other questions running through my head.
Whose job is it to raise your children? What happens to parents who ignore those notices? Is poor nutrition child abuse? Will it be considered so? What do you think?


Anonymous said...

I have a new pediatrician who asked me if my (homeschooled) seven year old daughter was reading yet, and wanted to know about her "socialization" since she wasn't in school. I felt outraged by this intrusion. I am my child's parent, and the physician is someone I hired to look after my daughter's physical health. I have recently been posting about these types of intrusive questions and meddling on I am SOOOOO glad my children are not in school, for so many reasons. This posting of yours, Judy, makes me feel the same way I do about our pediatrician's probing. Who is the parent? Who the H-E-double toothpicks does everybody think they are?

Anonymous said...

I must agree that I find the intrusiveness of this nature to be rather unsettling. I took my oldest daughter to the doctor a while back and they asked all sorts of questions. Of course I have nothing to hide, but I was wondering why in the world they needed that kind of information when all I needed was a referral to a surgeon to have a cyst drained. (I had already figured out what needed to be done) The cyst was a result of nothing we did, just something that often happens in curly headed people.

They asked about nutrition and so forth, which is fine I guess, but eventually they asked what kind of clubs and activities my children were involved in!

I remember thinking "What if a child is more academic than athletic? Will an academic club be good enough to them or will they require athletics too? Also, if they are going to start requiring parents to sign each child up for, say, a minimum of three activities each, who is going to pay for it, especially if they view it as a "requirement"?

A friend of mine told me that her pediatrician didn't view academics as good enough and sneered that her kids weren't involved in a team sport.

Another friend, who is a nurse, told me the exact same thing when she took her child to the pediatrician for a checkup. They asked about everything from diet to how much time they spend watching television or on the computer along with the clubs and activities. They lectured her on a bunch of stuff, minor issues, and she complained to her boss about it. They told her they had to identify issues to "educate" the parent regardless of their profession or degrees.

We came to the conclusion that these people are told to assume all parents are idiots, to find something wrong and to treat them accordingly. Btw, my friends don't homeschool, so this is happening across the board regardless of that issue.

It's come to the point to where we have to be careful about the doctors we choose because we're simultaneously picking our judge and jury.

Honestly though, I've met a few "nurses" that I could educate on a few issues because they certainly don't know everything. Sometimes I walk out of a doctor's office thinking "What a bunch of arrogant jerks".

And these letters being sent home from school with the children is the stupidest thing they could do. I wonder what arrogant idiot thought that was a good idea?

Anonymous said...

This is Anonymous #1--

My former pediatrician had a FIT when it came up that I don't use a curriculum or do testing on my children (which is not a requirement in my state). She actually said to me, "I did NOT know you were doing this! I have to find OUT about this!!" That may well have been the creepiest moment I have ever experienced in my life, and certainly was one of the scariest. Let us never forget that are surrounded by Mandated Reporters: physicians, nurses, teachers, scout leaders, etc. who are obligated by law to report suspected neglect and abuse of children, and while they are trained in what to look for, much of what is interpreted is subjective, of course. So, what one person wouldn't bat an eye at, might make another go running to the phone to make a report to Child Protective Services. So, while I feel most indignant about the doctor questions that are out of the realm of medicine and encroaching on MY realm as the parent, it is very difficult for me to challenge her. She might go running to the telephone. My children are clearly healthy, happy, intelligent people. It creeps me out to no end that someone with some kind of legal authority could conclude that they are neglected in some way and take action that could actually destroy my family. This could potentially happen to any of us.

mccommas said...

You are exactly right when you say kids who are too "[I would add naturally] mindful of their body image" as it is. The school does not need to be heaping their useless "concern" on as well.

I had a pimple problem in my teens and now I am distressed that I spent so much time worrying about it. What a waste of time! All I needed was a hug and for someone to whisper in my ear "You look just fine even with a flew blemishes". That person was my Dad and he did just that. I can’t imagine my reaction is the school started nosing in on my concerns.

With what few pictures I allowed to exist of that era I see now the problem was not one-tenth what I thought it was at the time so I understand how overweight kids must feel.

School administrators need to be told to mind their own damn business.

One pet peeve of mine is every place I do business with want to know my birthday. Why is it anyone's business how old I am when I don't even know these people?

Such questions used to be considered bad manners.

mccommas said...

I LOVE that pic of the Capital with the pirate flag!! I just noticed it.

How true!

I am going to have to do something similiar with our Town Hall.

Judy Aron said...

Glad you like the picture... and hey, what is you birth date? (LOL)
I really object to giving my zip code or phone number when I make a purchase at a store. I either give a phony one or none at all. Why can you not even buy something without giving out information? Hmmm.. sounds like a new post is developing in my brain :)

Iron-Man said...

Parents whose kids look like tubs of lard are concerned about the notice that is sent with the kids??

Talk about having priorities ass backwards. I guess that is a lot like not wanting to pay for medical care for American kids but sending Iraq another 90 billion dollars so the US can build hospitals for Iraqis.

Judy Aron said...

Oh yes, by all means Iron Man - let's just drag Iraq into another conversation that has nothing to do with the Iraq war at all.

And tell me again why it is the government's responsibility to pay for medical care for American kids? or why it is the school's place to track their BMI?

Rae Pica said...

Judy, there's a good deal of evidence that parents don't necessarily see their children's weight accurately. Here's a link to one such story:

Also, I say "hooray" that pediatricians are FINALLY addressing the physical activity issue! Maybe they need to learn to do it in a more sensitive manner, but an awful lot of parents won't consider physical activity important if their kids' doctors don't. I interviewed a prominent pediatrician last week for my radio program, "Body, Mind and Child" (, and he said pediatricians have been too steeped in information about disease and haven't received enough education in the role of physical activity in preventing disease! But that's starting to change, and it really is a good thing!

Judy Aron said...

Well I will agree that the medical profession - especially with regard to children's care has been out of touch. I still think that parents know their kids much better than doctors or teachers do.

In fact, most people know what their flaws are when it comes to calories and exercise.
Are there parents who are in denial about their child's weight - sure probably - but a letter with a BMI number isn't going to accomplish much with them anyway. I just don't think it is the school's place to be doing that and I'll bet it won't be long before the parent is bypassed and the school's BMI measurement of the child gets sent straight to the kid's doctor's office.

The real culprit behind obesity in this country as a whole - IMO - is the stuff that food manufacturers are putting into their products and that people are too easily seduced into convenience foods (as well as the huge portions we are used to). I think that is the bigger problem that we should be addressing.

Mister Teacher said...

I think it's also unhealthy for kids to be bringing a 24 ounce bag of Hot Cheetos to school as their "lunch." This is an extreme example, but you're kidding yourself if you don't think it happens at all.
I've never sent home a letter that says a kid is fat, but I have prevented kids from buying their fourth cookie of the day when they haven't even eaten their apple.

Anonymous said...

I guess the question comes down to this, who will look after the children when the parents can't or won't.

Jennifer said...

I guess the question comes down to this, who will look after the children when the parents can't or won't.

I think the question is more, "Given that it is impossible to set up a system where every single child is raised in the ultimately ideal fashion and nobody slips through the cracks, which system will result in the LEAST number of kids being hurt: a system where parents are responsible for their children, despite the fact that some parents are irresponsible jackasses, or a system where tenured government bureaucrats are responsible for parents' children?"