Schools and Stumbling Blocks

In the previous post, we mentioned the rationales for why the government takes such an interest in the health of school children. Sadly, while some agree on desirable goals, other constituents are less than enthusiastic. For instance, the authors of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act mentioned matter-of-factly that during the time period concerned, about 95% of American children attended school.

This is not universally accepted as a good thing. Apparently, lots of people would rather homeschool their children and have more control over the ideologies they might absorb. Others, who don’t even have children, would also be happier if more kids were homeschooled.

We reviewed an article whose authors mentioned that children spend as long as eight hours per day in the school setting, for as many as 180 days per year, also noting,

Schools have as much and probably more continuous and intensive contact with these children and youth during 5 to 18 years of their life except for their parents.

That is exactly what many Americans do not like, the concept that time spent equals brainwashing. They resent the idea that the school curriculum might wield more influence upon a child’s mind than the family’s worldview and opinions. The authors also state that…

Key features of the behavioral and nutrition components of an obesity prevention program must include all individuals in the child’s life who impact the child’s choices: parents and other family members, teachers, school nurse, physicians, physical education instructors, etc.

Many parents have a lot of trouble with what they regard as forced immersion, an unwanted intimacy between their private lives and the government. They do not want to be required to show up at the office and explain why their child is so skinny, or smuggles in a dozen doughnuts to eat during class, or seems unduly fearful, or smells weird.

They prefer a solid barrier between home and outside authority, and have strong opinions about what should or should not be the school’s business. They don’t like the idea of their child being taken into a private space and told to remove part of their clothing so a staff member can accurately measure their weight and height.

Compliance is not automatic

The National Council of State Legislatures published a detailed report on legislation contemplated, considered, adopted, or rejected by the various states during 2013. For instance, in the area of Body Mass Index screening or Student Fitness Screening, the report authors wrote, “The ease of measuring height and weight, without use of expensive equipment, makes BMI screening convenient…” (A glance at the training modules for staff members who are urged to do these measurements with the utmost accuracy gives an impression of the opposite of convenience.)

When people feel strongly about such issues, it might not matter what is mandated by federal, state or local law; it is just not going to happen. In many jurisdictions, local authorities have their ways of foot-dragging or circumvention, or whatever else will keep them from complying with unpopular standards. Parents who do not want to receive letters from the school stating their children’s weight and suggesting that they do something about it can be very powerful on the local level.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Childhood Obesity: Classification as an IDEA Disability,”, 2016
Source: “Childhood Obesity Legislation – 2013 Update of Policy Options,”, 03/01/14
Image by Sodexo USA/CC BY 2.0

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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