Kylee Moss, 7, asked her father if she was fat after a letter sent home from school said her BMI was too high. Photo by Amanda Moss.
Parents at one elementary school are speaking out this week after a letter sent home with students called out some children for being overweight.
After having their body mass index calculated in gym class earlier this month, students at Hillcrest Elementary School in Belton, Mo., were given a letter to take home that listed their BMI. It also included that student’s BMI from September, and whether the current BMI fell below, within, or above what’s considered “healthy” range.
A copy of the letter that was sent home with second grader Kylee Moss. Photo by Amanda Moss.
“Every child had this piece of paper put in their school folder to take home at the end of the week,” Hillcrest mom Amanda Moss tells Yahoo Parenting. “And like every child, my daughter went through her folder. She read the letter on the bus, and when she got home she showed it to my husband and said ‘does this mean I’m fat?’” Moss’s 7-year-old daughter Kylee is 3-feet, 10-inches and 54 pounds, with a BMI that falls above the established “healthy” range. “Body image is everything to children — how they appear to each other is everything,” Moss says. “They are learning at a very young age to be self-conscious.”
Kylee, who is in second grade, was able to decipher the basics of the letter, Moss says. “She had picked out that her number was larger than the number for her age. She realized what it was saying,” she says. “It was a pretty rough couple of days trying to make sure she understood she was beautiful.”
Moss says the fact that the letter was sent home for any kid to read, rather than in sealed envelopes meant for parents, is “appalling.” She wants to see the school seek parental permission to conduct these BMI reviews and says school officials should make sure to get the letters directly into the hands of parents.
Heidi Hickam, another local parent, echoed Moss’s sentiments on the local news. “[They sent] it home without it being in an envelope, where it’s exposed so all the kids can get into someone’s backpack and see the biggest kid in the class’s BMI and then maybe tease and bully him about it,” Hickam told WDAF.
Officials from the Belton School District did not respond to Yahoo Parenting’s request for comment but told WDAF that next year, they will let parents know in advance to expect these letters. “We did not mean anything malicious by it. I think our teachers are just really trying to help out,” Andrew Underwood, the Superintendent of Belton School Distict, told WDAF.
The letter itself, which was signed by the physical education teacher, does not indicate that students above the healthy BMI need to diet or lose weight. “If your child’s BMI is above the healthy range, his/her calorie intake might be higher than the rate calories are burned,” the letter reads. “Trading current snacks for healthier ones and finding more opportunities for activity will help. Focus on maintaining weight, we will never advocate for a child to lose weight. Children have plenty of time to grow in height which should lower their BMI number.”
The student population at Hillcrest Elementary was 37 percent overweight or obese during the 2013-2014 school year, according to materials on the school’s website. Eighteen percent of U.S. children ages 6 to 11 were overweight or obese in 2012, which is the most recent data available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. To address this, the school has started a “Healthy Hillcrest” initiative, according to its website, which includes an approved health snack list and a Healthy Hillcrest contract for all parents to sign.
Moss says she thinks the BMI portion of this plan should be dropped. “This school preaches inclusion, and accepting people for who they are,” she says. “Then here’s this paper they send out to children to let them know they aren’t average.”