Among schools that measure Body Mass Index, it is common to send the child’s parents a letter that states the findings, along with any recommendations for further evaluation and treatment. The previously mentioned “Colorado Healthy Weight Toolkit” includes an example of the opt-out form that parents can sign if they want no part of this. It explains the purpose of the Growth Screening Program and how the screenings take place in privacy, supervised by the school nurse; and why the school wants any additional information it seeks from the family.
Today we look at the kinds of questions that schools have been asking parents. A 2010 publication from the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights offers a sample questionnaire that includes sensible queries about who is legally responsible for the child, and pre-existing health problems, and medications, known allergies, and so forth. It also asks such questions as…
What does your child do when not in school?
Please describe your child’s behavior at home?
Have there been any important changes within the family during the last 3 years?
What time does your child go to bed at night?
What methods of discipline are used with your child at home?
What is your child’s reaction to discipline?
The aforementioned “Colorado Healthy Weight Toolkit” sample intake form contains places to enter the child’s height, weight, BMI, and blood pressure. Then, a number of boxes are to be checked if there is a history of bullying, low self-esteem, school avoidance, depression, suicidal ideation, or inadequate family resources caused by poverty, homelessness, or crisis.
For girls, there is a checkbox pertinent to heavy or irregular menstrual cycles. Also inquired about is orthopedic pain — strangely, only if it is located below the waist. Back, neck, shoulder and rib pain seems to have no claim on the school’s attention. Parents and educators are also expected to make note of inappropriate sleep patterns, odor complaints, bowel or bladder accidents, skin or wound problems, severe psychological issues, emotional crisis, and acanthosis nigricans. This last item is a skin condition that can indicate diabetes, but which might be difficult to check for, because it tends to show up in the armpits, navel, groin, or under the breasts.
That some parents regard all this as intrusive, and even abusive, behavior on the part of the authorities, does not come as a total surprise. Meanwhile, one problem that school staff members are supposed to be on the alert for is abusive parents, and reporting suspicious details to law enforcement entities is an official duty.
Certain parents, no matter what their reason — and indeed, one of their talking points is that they do not, as free Americans and taxpayers, need to proffer a reason — do not want the school to give any attention to some of these issues. Even less, do they want the sensitive information entered into any sort of permanent record.
This tension is one of the many factors complicating the effort to lower childhood obesity rates.
Your responses and feedback are welcome!
Source: “Childhood Obesity Legislation — 2013 Update of Policy Options,” NCSL.org, 03/01/14
Source: “Guidelines for Educators and Administrators for Implementing Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973,” MemberClicks.net, 2010
Source: “Colorado Healthy Weight Toolkit,” CDE.state.co.us, 12/01/14
Image by Michael B. Smith/CC BY 2.0