Parents unhappy that school tracks kids’ weight
By Susan Frick Carlman Sun-Times Mediaemail@example.com December 7, 2012 2:04AM
Lincoln Junior High School offers a variety of activities during physical education classes. | File photo
Updated: January 8, 2013 6:34AM
Parents of Naperville District 203 students are objecting to a phys ed program that tracks junior high school kids’ weight.
Parents of Lincoln Junior High School students contacted administrators in September, objecting to the fitness unit program that asks students to weigh in and record their weight. District officials say the matter has been discussed with those who have raised concerns about it.
“I said, ‘You are creating a generation of eating disorders. You should focus on wellness, not weight,’ ” said Karen Smith, mother of a sixth-grader.
School officials assured Smith that her child could opt out of the decade-old program.
“Here’s the problem with optional: You create that drama with weighing,” Smith said.
Wendy Nawara said her two junior high kids were told last week, when it was time to do their second weigh-in, that they could do it at home instead if they preferred. Nawara said the offer, while perhaps well-intended, missed the point.
“It doesn’t matter if [my daughter] weighs herself at home or at school. The number needs to go down in order for her to feel good about herself,” she said.
Nawara thinks the school system could use other means to evaluate wellness that don’t make young teens feel anxious and self-conscious.
“This isn’t what they should be doing. Why can’t they see if times on the mile have changed?” Nawara said.
She alerted other parents to the weight- monitoring.
“The reason I got so upset about it was because it’s not just about my kids. It affects all kids. It’s bad practice,” she said. “I just was really disturbed that this was the way we’re looking at wellness.”
John Fiore, instructional coordinator for the district’s physical education program, said when the current curriculum was devised a decade ago, the department opted not to require weigh-ins, although body composition is one of the five standard measures of fitness. The others include strength, endurance, flexibility and cardiovascular health.
Fiore said students are told they can simply leave the weight space blank if they don’t want it to be recorded.
“We are not forcing kids to stand on scales in front of their peers,” he said, adding that the schools are keenly aware that there are students who struggle with eating disorders and obesity. “I don’t think we focus on one data point, because fitness isn’t defined one way.”
Still, parents say their kids focus on the weight measurement because they live in a society that values thinness.
Smith found little comfort in the school gym teacher’s insistence that students were instructed not to share their numbers with one another.
“That’s all they talk about — in the lunchroom, after school, on social media,” she said.