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Friday, 29 February 2008

MANDATORY MONITORING OF CHILDREN'S BODY MASS INDEX

On October 17, 2007 we commented on a Denver Public School District policy that weighed children and issued health report cards to their parents. We were appalled by this practice then, we are even more appalled now that it has become a state legislation in the state of Georgia.

Excess weight or even obesity does not automatically equate
to bad health or sickness. Many children are plump or fat in their childhood but lose this excess weight in adolescence or adulthood without any further complications or illnesses. The duty of all adults, whether school authorities, neighbors, relatives or friends, is to report to the child welfare authorities any sign of neglect or abuse suspected in a child. When there are no noticeable health problems or signs of neglect, routinely passing judgment on the child’s weight is totally unwarranted, especially when it cannot be predicted what damage this evaluation can cause to the child’s mental and psychological state of mind at the vulnerable age when self esteem and acceptance by their peers is of utmost importance.

Senate mandates weighing Georgia kids twice a year
New law would requires schools to track weight and BMI

Georgia's elementary school children will be weighed and measured twice a year by school officials under a bill that passed the Senate Friday.

The legislation requires schools to track kids' body mass index, a combination of height and weight used to determine whether the child is healthy. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Joseph Carter (R-Tifton) requires that schools post the aggregate BMI information on their Web sites and follow state regulations on offering physical education classes.

Carter said the bill would work much like test scores, with schools reporting their data so parents could check out how they measure up to other area schools. Children would be weighed in a confidential office setting and their personal data would not become public, he said.

"Sally, step into the office, step up on the scale, that's about as invasive as it gets," he said. More than one in three kids in Georgia is overweight, he said. "The presence of childhood obesity is staggering."

Arkansas was the first state to implement such a rule, in 2003. The bill, which mirrors legislation in several other states, passed 37 to 13 after a heated debate.

Sen. Preston Smith (R-Rome) said "the long arm of the government" should stop reaching into peoples' private lives.

He said worries that schools' will pressure children to lose weight and stigmatize them, mimicking what he worried school officials would say: "Come on, pick it up fat kid, we're not going to get money if you don't!""

As he left the podium, refusing to engage in a debate, Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford) who supports the bill, shouted "chicken!" at him.

It's not the first time lawmakers have tried to take up childhood obesity. Carter introduced a bill in 2006 that would have required more PE for Georgia elementary and middle schoolers, but the measure failed.

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