BELTON, Mo. — Some parents in the Belton School District are upset over a letter their children brought home from school. The letter has some elementary-aged kids questioning their own weight.
Students at Hillcrest Elementary School were weighed and measured for their BMI — or body mass index — in their physical education class. The results were put on paper and sent home with each child, sparking outrage in some parents.
Amanda Moss said her daughter Kylee came home with the letter from her teacher.
“She wanted to know if it meant that she was fat because she saw ‘lose weight’ on it,” Moss explained. “Whenever she read it, she only needed help with one word and that was ‘body composition’, and when she knew that her number was bigger than the number for her age, she knew that it meant something.”
Kylee is seven years old, 3’10” and weighs 54 pounds.
“It was frightening to know that a child in second grade would worry about what their body image is,” Moss said.
Moss said she felt the note should’ve been sealed and sent home strictly for parents. She’s not the only parent who feels this way.
“We know that he has a health problem, and we don’t need a letter to remind me of that,” Heidi Hickam said.
Hickam says her 10-year-old son, Kaleb, has a liver disease and is already insecure about his weight.
“If they’re going to send it home without it being in an envelope , where it’s exposed where all the kids can get into someone’s backpack and see the biggest kid in the class’s BMI and then maybe tease and bully him about it,” Hickam said.
Belton Superintendent Dr. Andrew Underwood says the notes are sent home with every elementary school student in the district to promote a healthy lifestyle.
“We did not mean anything malicious by it. I think our teachers are just really trying to help out,” Dr. Underwood explained.
Dr. Alberto Suarez says that BMI is the body weight in kilograms divided by the height in meters squared.
“The BMI is sort of a rough indicator of what your body mass is. I mean, you could be fairly muscular and your BMI might be outside the norm, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re unhealthy,” Dr. Suarez explained.
Moss said the school went about the whole thing in an inappropriate way.
“Here’s this information, your child doesn’t fit into this, here’s what you can do to make your child fit. And to me that’s completely against what they’ve been teaching to accept each other and to not discriminate,” she said.
The school district says it has been doing this for years, and this is just the first school year they’ve sent out notes like this. It was typically sent on the students’ grade card. The superintendent says families will be notified in advance from now on.