Proud2Bme | Weighing Kids At School: Bad Idea

Weighing Kids At School: Bad Idea

Schools across the country are now weighing students and tracking their BMI. But this attempt to address childhood obesity could be adding fuel to the fire of another epidemic: eating disorders.

Nineteen states in the U.S. now screen students for body mass index (BMI). Tracey Smith, a mother from California was outraged when her ninth grade daughter came home sobbing because she was terrified of the upcoming weigh-in at her school. Smith has started a petition asking the CA Department of Education to stop weighing kids in school, a ban she would like to see enacted nationwide.

"My daughter has told me that ALL of her friends were terrified of being weighed, " says Smith. "They were like, 'Can we miss school that day?' says Smith. "It’s so humiliating and you can hear kids talking and saying, 'Well, what do you think she weighs?' or 'She’s so fat, I bet she weighs a ton' or 'Look at how skinny she is—she’s anorexic.' It’s a terrible stigma for these school-aged children and it puts so much hardship on their self-esteem. It seems like it might be a small issue in the big scheme of things but it really does have a huge impact on them in their life."

Smith knows firsthand the cycle of shame and self-destructive behavior that can be triggered by the unhealthy--and unnecessary--focus on weight.

"I spent my high school years bulimic," recalls Smith. "It took me until I was 32 to get a handle on this. This is what I don't want for my child. This is what I don't want for the rest of the boys and girls out there."

Pediatrician Sayantani DasGupta shares this concern. In a post for Adios Barbie, she argues that BMI testing in schools is a misguided, inaccurate measure of health and ultimately it is causing more harm than good.

"Individual issues of weight, exercise, and eating are absolutely the concern of pediatricians. They are absolutely the concern of parents. Yet, what narratives of ‘fat panic’ have led to is a nation of armchair diagnosticians, who use ‘science’ as a cloak for perpetuating cultural notions of normative bodies, and use ‘medicine’ as an excuse for ‘othering’ and bullying."

Smith wants parents to know that they can take a stand against BMI testing. After contacting her daughter's school, she learned that she could opt out of the testing and she encourages other parents to do the same: inquire about what kind of weight/BMI testing your child's school conducts and opt out of it. In addition to her petition, she has also written letters to her local community papers and started a Facebook page to spread the word about the importance of body positivity.

Does your school do BMI screening? What do you think about it?


Image courtesy of vorakorn/freedigitalphotos

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