Tags: school | fat | letter | parents | obesity

School Fat Letter: Parents Outraged by Daughter's Obesity Warning

Wednesday, 09 Oct 2013 08:48 AM

By Clyde Hughes

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Two Florida parents are outraged that their daughter received a "fat letter" from the Collier County Health Department in Naples, which is sent out to parents as a warning that their child is at risk of becoming obese.

WBBH-TV reported that Florida state law requires students get health screenings, including a Body Mass Index test (BMI) at the start of the school year. Kristen and Michael Grasso said their daughter, Lily, 11, brought home a letter that said their daughter's weight was "at risk."

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"My first call was to my mother to say, 'Am I crazy, or is this wrong?'" Kristen Grasso told WBBH, adding that her daughter, at 5-foot-3, 127 pounds, is a star volleyball player at her school. "Lily is athletic, tall, plays volleyball six days a week for two different teams. She's not overweight."

Deb Millsap, with the county health department, told the television station that all parents receive a letter about their child's BMI. She said the letter includes a caveat that the BMI test could be off for athletic kids and urges parents to follow up with their family doctor.

"We always want parents to realize that it says so in a letter, and it's only a screening tool," Millsap said. "Every parent, (even) if a child's screening is normal, receives a letter so no child is singled out."

Critics say the test could fuel an unhealthy body image for children.

"I would like to see all BMI screenings banned," Claire Mysko, spokeswoman for the National Eating Disorder Association, told ABC News. "For those who are already insecure about their weight, these tests can potentially trigger an eating disorder." 

Many states conduct BMI tests for children in school. Fox News reported in 2010 that Massachusetts parents complained when their kids received the same kind of "fat letters" after public officials conducted the test. 

"To have a piece of paper like this come home in their backpack with them is very, very concerning to me," Lori-Ann Sumner said when her nine-year-old daughter Shelby, who was active in gymnastics and other sports, was characterized as "borderline overweight."

While the testing is done in 21 states, north of the border, Toronto school officials have opted not to send out the "fat letter" to students after critics claimed it encouraged bullying and shaming kids, the Toronto Star reported.

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Related stories:

Schools Send 'Fat Letters' Home With Overweight Students (Video)

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