In November, more than 800,000 New York public school students were measured and weighed in school as a part of an Office of School Wellness Program. Using these measurements, each student’s Body Mass Index (BMI) was calculated.
Students were then handed their own Fitnessgrams, which, along with their measurements, contained classifications such as “healthy weight” or “overweight.” As the department described on their website, the Fitnessgrams were intended to help support lifelong health for students in grades K-12.
Although students were told not to open the papers at school, many did – and many were also shocked and upset to see which category they had been placed into.
Third-grader Gwendolyn Williams of Staten Island was one of these students: the 4-foot-1, 66-pound girl had been shown to have a BMI of 19, which placed her in the “overweight” category.
One night as she tucked Gwendolyn into bed, Laura Bruij Williams recalls her daughter saying to her, “The school told me I’m overweight.”
“And then she started jiggling her thighs, and saying, ‘Is this what they mean?’” Williams explained.
According to the Department of Education’s BMI System, the nine-year-old girl was just one pound overweight. When Williams ran her daughter’s measurements through another BMI tool, however, her daughter came out right in the middle of the “healthy weight” section.
“My daughter shouldn’t be going to sleep and looking at her thighs and belly, wondering ‘is this what they mean?’” Williams said of her daughter’s reaction, which she described as “heartbreaking.”
Although Gwendolyn herself doesn’t seem to be overly concerned about the classification, Williams and many other mothers are infuriated that the school could be so potentially damaging to so many children’s self-perceptions.
“Girls shouldn’t be crying on the bus at 8 years old because they read a piece of paper saying they’re obese,” she wrote on her Facebook page.
On Thursday, Williams went into Gwendolyn’s school, PS 29 Bardwell, to speak with the principal. Although the principal was sympathetic to her point, she maintained that the students weren’t supposed to open the Fitnessgrams.
“My response is, they’re kids. How can you believe they’re not going to open it?” Williams said.
The principal did, however, tell Williams that next year, the school will consider sending the Fitnessgrams home in a sealed envelope with the report cards.
Photo Sources: Daily Mail