Parents in Missouri are outraged after physical education teachers sent children home with a note on their Body Mass Index.
Kylee Moss, a 7-year old girl who is 3-foot-10 and weighs 54 pounds, has a BMI that falls just above the healthy BMI range according to her PE teacher’s measurements. The incident upset her parents, who had to reassure young Kylee that’s there’s nothing wrong with her or her body.
Hillcrest Elementary School in Belton, Missouri had students BMI calculated in gym class to determine their healthiness level. Kylee Moss’s mother, Amanda Moss, told Yahoo Parenting that:
“Body image is everything to children — how they appear to each other is everything. They are learning at a very young age to be self-conscious,” Rachel Bertsche reports.
Other parents have been concerned over the lighthearted approach the school took by sending the BMI reports through the students’ school folders, risking comparisons between peers and potentially giving ammunition for teasing and bullying for students with high BMIs.
Heidi Hickam, a local parent, was also displeased that the school sent the BMI report unsealed:
“… where it’s exposed so all the kids can get into someone’s backpack and see the biggest kid in the class’s BMI and then maybe tease and bully him about it,” Heidi Hickam told WDAF.
Hickam expressed her concern about the incident which not only didn’t tell her something she didn’t know already but also shared information that should have been kept private. “We know that [our son] has a health problem, and we don’t need a letter to remind me of that,” Hickam said.
Andrew Underwood, Superintendent at Belton School District, told WDAF that no teacher had bad intentions with the BMI measurements and reporting. The school announced that next year parents will be notified about the BMI report in advance so that they’ll expect it. Parents will be also given a chance to opt out.
Concerns have been raised at to whether this incident discriminates against children, Moss said:
“here’s this information, your child doesn’t fit into this, here’s what you can do to make your child fit and to me that’s completely against what they’ve been teaching to accept each other and to not discriminate,” Carly Moore reporting for Kdvr.com writes.
Underwood, however, reassured parents that:
“We do the body mass index on our students for positive reasons to try to promote healthy habits as far as what the kids eat and their activity.” ABC News’ Sydey Lapkin writes.
BMI is a controversial measurement as it fails to distinguish muscle mass from fat mass, says Dr. Naveen Uli, a pediatric endocrinologist. He explains that such initiatives could be:
“psychological[ly] punishing, since school personnel may not be familiar with details regarding that child’s health. This is best addressed by that child’s healthcare provider.”
He does agree that when children have limited access to healthcare, in “that scenario, the school report to the child’s parents on BMI might be a much needed wake-up call.”