Burkburnett Independent School District is making new strides in the hopes of preventing childhood obesity. However, the new method is causing some concern for parents at John Tower Elementary School.
This year, school officials have started a new process of notifying parents of their child’s body mass index, or BMI. It’s a calculation that uses a child’s weight and height to determine early signs of childhood obesity.
“We got this paper saying our 6-year-old was overweight, and he's not,” said Rebecca Sturtevant “Something about his BMI being high and being in the 91st percentile for his height and weight.”
Sturtevant’s child is just 49 pounds and stands 3 feet 7 inches. The Sturtevant’s said they couldn't understand why their child was being classified as overweight.
“I was enraged,” said Sturtevant. “I was shocked because he's not fat and I think it’s insensitive and hurtful for kids and parents.”
The growth screening test is part of state requirements that are conducted every year, but this is the first year notifications have been sent out, according to the Principal at John Tower Elementary School.
“It’s just a measurement that can be used to identify signals and signs that childhood obesity could occur,” said Audrey Ash, Principal of John Tower Elementary School.
The children were measured by their percentile rating in accordance to pediatric growth charts. The percentile was then correlated with a weight chart released by the Centers for Disease Control. The child was then classified as underweight, average, or overweight.
“At Tower we are just all about open communication with our parents,” said Ash. “We did not mean to offend anyone or cause anyone hurt feelings, or to be angry. That wasn't our intent at all.”
The paper was sent home inside a folder, and placed inside the child’s backpack. Although the letter was meant for parents to read, the Sturtevant’s worry the information and classification could have ended up in the wrong hands.
“The body image thing is the biggest thing,” said Mark Sturtevant. “I mean these are 6-year-old kids, they shouldn’t even be concerned about being overweight by a letter from the school.”
The intention of sending the letters home was in the hopes of keep children healthy and keeping communication open, according to school officials.
“I always welcome parents to share concerns with me, that’s my top priority is my parents and my kids,” said Ash.
Newschannel 6 reached out to a pediatrician at the Clinics of North Texas who said BMI can be a good indicator of obesity. However, by using weight and height alone the BMI will not be an accurate representation of a child’s weight status, according to Dr. Daunne Peters.
BMI calculations are meant to be coupled with information specific to a child, such as, how your child looks, family history, eating habits, and a number of other child specific factors. However, because there is such a push in childhood obesity prevention, much of the burden is now being pushed to school districts. Not everyone goes to the doctor so the school system is the easiest way to reach every child, according to Dr. Peters.
If you are concerned about the testing the best thing you can do is contact your child’s doctor.
School officials plan to refer the letter sent home, to the district health advisory committee. They will review the notification, and then the school will go from there.