AVON LAKE — School officials inadvertently let some students know where they rank on the body mass index scale, labeling them as underweight, normal, overweight or obese.
Superintendent Robert Scott said the information was intended for parents’ eyes only, but an elementary teacher handed the notes to students instead of mailing them home. The result was some students learned where they fell on the BMI before parents had a chance to understand the information and explain it to their children.
“It’s unfortunate this happened, but it’s not bad information to have,” Scott said. “The teacher misunderstood. They were supposed to be mailed home and addressed to parents. We try very hard to do everything that keeps a child in mind, but sometimes mistakes happen.”
Scott said he did not know how many letters went home before the mistake was caught. At least one parent said her child received the letter saying she was obese and refused to eat dinner.
Students were weighed and their BMI calculated in accordance with a new state law known as the Healthy Choices for Healthy Children Act that was enacted in June 2010. It requires every school district in the state to do the screening and provide the data to parents for students in kindergarten, third, fifth and ninth grades.
This is the first year districts were required to do the additional screening and school officials had the option to secure a waiver to opt out if the mandate caused a burden.
Avon Lake school nurse Sara Curtan said the BMI measures were done during the same cycle of hearing and eyesight screenings the district also does each year. School nurses used each student’s birth date, date of screening, height, weight and gender to calculate the BMI in accordance to a system used by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.
Scott said parents had the opportunity to opt out of having their child tested.
BMI data are used to identify possible weight problems for children. The CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend the use of BMI to screen for overweight and obesity in children beginning at 2 years old.
Earlier this month, the Ohio Department of Health released a BMI study looking at third-graders during 2004 to 2010. It shows that childhood obesity is one of the most important public health issues in Ohio with more than 30 percent of children and adolescents classified as overweight or obese.
Curtan said the information is good for parents to have and should be used as a springboard to talk to their child’s primary care physician.
Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or firstname.lastname@example.org.