As a kid, there was always one family to avoid on Halloween: The one that doled out toothbrushes, apples, or worst of all, raisins. Well, kids in Fargo, North Dakota, should steer clear of one more — the neighbor that celebrates Halloween by fat-shaming trick-or-treaters with a mean letter.
A woman named Cheryl (she declined to provide her last name) is making headlines for her plan to hand overweight kids who knock on her door with a letter addressed to their parents, reprimanding them for their children's unhealthy eating habits. The letter reads:
“You are probably wondering why your child has this note; have you ever heard the saying, ‘It takes a village to raise a child?’ I am disappointed in ‘the village’ of Fargo Moorhead, West Fargo. Your child is, in my opinion, moderately obese and should not be consuming sugar and treats to the extent of some children this Halloween season. My hope is that you will step up as a parent and ration candy this Halloween and not allow your child to continue these unhealthy eating habits. Thank you.”
Calling her writing style “tasteful,” and her intentions “neighborly,” the woman tells Fargo local news station Y94 that parents need to take responsibility for having “little fat kids.”
“This woman has classic bully syndrome,” says Fran Walfish, PsyD., a Beverly Hills, California-based child psychotherapist. “If she was truly concerned with obesity as a public health issue, why not work on healthy lunch programs in the public school system or counsel overweight kids?”
The move is also cowardly, Walfish adds. “Similar to when people write hateful, anonymous comments online, by not providing her last name, the woman hides behind her hostility. She feels strongly about the issue — why not reveal her identity?”
Even if the envelope is sealed, kids know a “fat letter” when they see one. In 2013, children in 19 states received notices from their schools informing parents that their BMI (a debatable concept to begin with) was too high. One letter even showed up at a Southern California pre-school. And shaming as method of discipline — forcing kids to stand on street corners holding signs apologizing for bad behavior or sending them to school wearing ridiculous outfits — doesn't have the best track record either when it comes to preventing future bad behavior.
There’s no denying that childhood obesity is a serious issue — according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, more than 30 percent of kids are overweight or obese and 5 percent are severely obese. However, if anyone is going to crack the obesity crisis, it should be educators, scientists, and family members. Not mean ladies with Halloween candy.