A growing number of schools are sending reports to parents indicating whether their kids are passing the grade when it comes to body mass index or BMI.
Schools in 19 states from Arkansas to Illinois are taking part, measuring students at annual weigh-ins and then sending reports home to parents indicating whether a child is in the green, healthy zone or the red, danger zone.
However, the reports are quickly becoming controversial with some students calling them “fat reports.”
“I'm insecure because I'm taller than a lot of girls in my school and I'm also bigger than a lot of them,” said 13-year-old Lucy Williams, adding, “I'm not incredibly skinny.”
Pediatricians say BMI readings are helpful in combating childhood obesity.
Dr. Lanre Omojokun Falusi with the American Academy of Pediatrics explained, “Right now it's the best means we have to determine whether a child's weight is healthy or unhealthy.”
Eating disorder experts, however, worry the readings will do more harm than good.
“I would like to see BMI testing in schools banned,” said Claire Mysko with the National Eating Disorders Association, adding, “For those who are already insecure about their weight these tests can potentially trigger an eating disorder.”
The figures are daunting. More than 40% of nine and 10-year-old girls have already been on a diet and as many as 60% of all six to 12-year-olds say they are worried about their weight.
“I hate them,” 13-year-old Zuzu Park-Stettner said when asked about her school's BMI testing.
Carmen Kunkel, 12, added, “It really doesn't do much for people except for make them more insecure about themselves.”
“If they knew how much you weighed and if it was a really high number, like 100 [pounds], it would cause bullying,” nine-year-old Jane Park-Stettner said.
Mothers are also concerned. Shannon Park has two children.
She said, “When they are entering adolescence their bodies are changing and then they get this number that says, 'Oh, you know, you're not the right number.' It's just a horrible way to start womanhood.”
Hope Green, also a mother of two, added, “There's so much stress. The last thing they need is the school to now step in [with reports that say] 'You're too skinny' or 'You're too fat.'”
Tennessee schools are not required to test students' BMIs but can choose to do so.