ISSAQUAH, Wash. — A Washington state school district is causing controversy over a new health and wellness program designed to keep kids physically fit.
As part of a new wellness program, the school district is weighing students to calculate their body-mass index to determine if the children are at a healthy weight. However, some families are worried that weighing students could lead to bullying.
“We are all so different, we’re all individuals. We’re not all 6-foot runway models,” said mother Blythe Mercer.
Mercer worries bullies in the district could be getting some fresh ammunition thanks to the new program.
“We’re in a district that is known for a high suicide rate and I just don’t want to prick another hole in that balloon,” Mercer added. “I think that’s dangerous, I think we’re playing with fire.”
This fall, the district started measuring and recording students’ BMI in order to compare their height and weight and determine if they are overweight or obese. The lesson plan is designed to give kids tools to be healthy throughout their lives.
“It’s also very important to teach health and fitness. So we’re teaching things like how to take your heart rate…sportsmanship, setting goals, and good nutrition,” said Lorraine Michelle with the Issaquah school district.
Obesity is a problem Issaquah schools are trying to face head-on. Michelle says the curriculum isn’t meant to single anyone out.
“As students understand their own fitness level, it helps the set goals and move forward,” she said.
But Mercer worries a BMI number doesn’t paint the whole picture when it comes to healthy bodies, and she said her kids are worried about being teased.
“I have one daughter who does not feel comfortable about it,” Mercer said.
Mercer said she likes the idea of teaching kids to be healthy, but wishes the district would butt-out of the body-mass index.
“It’s not our school’s business. This should be left up to our pediatrician,” she said.
The district says the body mass index portion of the new curriculum isn’t mandatory, and that parents can opt out at any time. Parents also have the option of taking their kids to the doctor to get their BMI measurements away from classmates.
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