One of the worse memories I have growing up as a child was school ‘weigh in’ days. From 1st grade to high school, I sat in terrified anticipation as I watched the school nurse drag a giant scale down the hall for my yearly humiliation. Each class lined up in the hallway waiting to be weighed and measured, while the nurse called out the heights and weights to another nurse who would log the information on a chart. This was never done (to my recollection), with any kind of propriety and I remember thinking even then, who wants to know?
The issue? Weighing just 5 or 10 pounds more or less than your classmates (which I usually did), could translate to bullying; name calling or actual shunning for the rest of the school year faster than you could say the pledge of allegiance.
This very subject has come to a head in Indiana, where Hoosiers have been ranked some of the heaviest in the nation. In an all-state effort to battle their war on obesity, and with the rise of type 2 diabetes in children, Indiana health and education officials are asking school officials to track health trends by recording all Indiana student’s heights and weights and reporting their findings to a government body by May of this year. This, in an effort to mark trends which might affect decisions about nutrition and exercise programs which might prevent such weighty issues from getting out of control.
But many in Indiana are saying, no way. The push back comes from several school officials who’re concerned (rightly so), that any leak of this type of personal information in the classroom or on the playground could cause humiliation and ostracizing of susceptible students.
"Kids are very sensitive about weight issues," said Joe Backmeyer, superintendent of Nettle Creek Schools in Wayne County. "We work hard to treat everybody the same, and to have any kind of information out there that would do otherwise doesn’t appear to make sense."
The collection of information requires each child’s identity be revealed initially for record keeping purposes. However, the state is trying to assure school officials that ultimately names will be kept confidential.
On its face it seems to be reasonable to want to track health information of students if that information can be fed directly into the education system and the end result are programs which focus on healthier lifestyles. But, what concerns me is focusing too much on weight, and not on health or healthy eating. When you’re measuring only heights and weights, there seems to be little allowance for changing bodies as kids grow. Pre-puberty, most of us get rounder and the uneducated about this subject worry that kids are just getting fat then, and that can set off a lifetime of weight worries for kids who are ‘talked to’ about it.
Weight and kids is a touchy subject that shouldn’t be left in the hands of school nurses and the like who really don’t understand all the ramifications of the subject.