Friday, December 08, 2006

Mandatorily Thin

I'll get in on this bloggle (bloggle:blog::gaggle:goose) about legislating common sense.

In Maryland's last legislative session, a well-meaning senator introduced Senate Bill 329, which provides for mandatory obesity screening for every child in the 1st, 3rd, 5th, and 8th grades. The child's Body-Mass Index (BMI) would be measured, and a "health report card" would be sent home to the parents, informing them of the results.

Imagine that, getting a letter from school informing you that your son is fat. I can imagine the conversation now at the dinner table.

"So, Johnny, we got your health report card today. Your teacher says you got a 32! Why didn't you tell us you were getting fat?"

"I thought I was doing okay."

"What do you eat in the school cafeteria?"

"Just what they feed us. McDonald's burgers, fries, pizza, soda."

"Well, until you get your grade down to a 25, you are grounded, young man. Now, go upstairs to your room and watch TV."

Fortunately, the bill died.

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DrivingMissMolly said...

Well, unfortunately, teachers have to do a lot of things that parents are supposed to do but don't. I am not speaking of all parents, obviously.

I taught third grade for one year at a school that was considered a Title I school. Over 90% of the students were on free lunch. They also served breakfast in the cafeteria for the kids. In the summer, the school was open at lunch to feed the kids lest some of them go hungry.

As a teacher I was required to teach the "Boy's Town" social skills. Included were lessons on such things as; taking a compliment, introducing yourself to others, taking criticism, greeting someone, etc.

I believe many if not most parents do an adequate job, but unfortunately, teachers are expected to do more and more, including teaching what parents should be teaching and providing everything from clothes and school supplies to food for their children.

Our school even offered job training and parenting classes for the community.

Unfortunately, what is obvious to most of us, is not to some parents. We know that Johnny and Susie, or at my school it was Juan and Susana, need to get off the couch and leave the game console to get some excercise outside, but Mommy and Daddy (Mami y Papi) may need a wakeup call.

(Yes, I taught bilingual third grade and yes I am hispanic)

Dinah said...

I laughed out loud.

I agree that parents overlook their children's faults (have I mentioned my perfect children lately). In terms of pointing out to a parent who might otherwise be unaware that their kid is overweight, can I add a few thoughts:
--This particular issue is the domain of the pediatrician.
--The act of weighing and reporting on school children may create a humiliating set of circumstances for some kids.
--The focus on weight may feed into eating disorder issues.
--While we'd like to believe that the parents will see an elevated risk, alter children's diet, encourage (or force?) increased activity and this will fix the problem, I just don't think it works that way. We've become all too aware of the existence of obesity and over the past 20 years, all it has done is increase. If there was something concrete the schools would have to Offer-- a proven & effective remedy--then it might be worth doing.
--finally, think of the work, record keeping, and paperwork/postage this entails; the public schools here are underfinanced, violent, drug-ridden, and having a hard enough time keeping teachers & educating students: why would we want to add one more burden to their load?

DrivingMissMolly said...


Interestingly enough, at the end of that year of teaching, since the state mandated more "PE," we were told that we were going to start to do a "lesson plan" for recess to show that the kids were getting 15 minutes of activity. Oh, brother. But of course, they weren't allowed to play tag because it started fights and so on. Plus, we had to provide our own balls and equipment.

I imagine the nurse and her assistant would have to way everyone? Yikes!

I remember ONCE having to stand at the back of the room because I didn't have my prayers memorized (Catholic school) because I had been out sick. I can't imagine standing at the back of the room because at "weigh-in," I was too tubby.


Anonymous said...

When I was a kid in Poland, I was being weighted every year by a nurse in my school, same as everyone else. They would also take our hight, blood pressure, and check our heads for lice, as well as check our teeth and give us basic vaxcinations. I am not quite sure what was done with the information, because I never had any problems, except for teeth. They would send me to a dentist, which meant that I could skip a couple of hours of classes :). It was like that 'till the end of my high school. In university they would just oblige us to get a medical check-up every year. During the communist era, when I was in primary school, we even had a dentist on site.

Anyways, I think it was quite cool. I understand we had a different system... Actually, how diferent was it?

In terms of responsibiliity of parents, well, some of them just aren't behaving responsibly enough. In therms of responsibility of schools, well, they should be responsible for what is served in the caffeteria. Banning burgers, fries and pop would be a good start of fighting child obesity.

Roy: great joke, lol! sad but true...

HP said...

There was talk of a similar program of weigh-ins here. I'm not sure what happened to it - whether the idea died a natural death or not. I hope so for all the reasons outlined by Dinah. Some kindergartens have been also policing lunchboxes.

Parents need to step up here (and, of course, some won't). I'm trying to teach my daughter sensible eating and exercise habits but I'm always wary of not overemphasising it and creating a completely different problem altogether. She told me that one girl in her class talks about not eating lunch some days because she doesn't want to get fat and I find that scary at aged 7.

Midwife with a Knife said...

I also think it's quite a leap to assume that "responsible parents"="normal weight kids".

Anonymous said...

Back in the late 70s/early 80s my elementary school in Utah did a yearly weigh in. When I was in 4th grade, the fat kids (I was one of them, so this is why I know this) in the school had a weekly diet class. No one else knew what the class was because kids were always being pulled out of regular class for resource or random things like that and everyone just seemed to assume it was an academic thing.

However, it was a diet class. Partly it was good - encouraging us to exercise more and eat more veggies. However, it also focused on calorie restriction, which seems to me to be inappropriate at that age (I would have been 9 years old; it was my first of many diets). At that age, encouraging more physical activity and more healthy foods, and limiting junk food is appropriate, but not calorie restriction.

My point is that if schools are struggling to teach basic academics, why on earth would we trust them to deal with social/medical issues? They're not qualified.

None of it helped anyway. I'm a fat adult.

Dinah said...

Knifey Midwife: Yup, quite the leap.

Tanya: Yup, too.

Roy: I gave you a pic. Hope you like it.

Sarebear said...

Needs to be blueberry colored.

hee hee.

Noah Boddie said...

I keep hearing that obesity and even diabetes is now an epidemic in children, but at the same time there is a record number of children that are reportedly being sent to bed hungry, even with food stamps and all the other handouts available. It can't be both.

Could it be that there are some mutant children eating all the basic school supplies like chalk and paper that parents and their co-workers are then constantly berated about? It makes them obese, but they go to bed hungry.