RUSH: From Blossburg, Pennsylvania — “Six-year-old Karlind Dunbar barely touched her dinner, but not for time-honored 6-year-old reasons. The pasta was not the wrong shape. She did not have an urgent date with her dolls. The problem was the letter Karlind discovered, tucked inside her report card, saying that she had a body mass index in the 80th percentile.
“The first grader did not know what ‘index’ or ‘percentile’ meant, or that children scoring in the 5th through 85th percentiles are considered normal, while those scoring higher are at risk of being or already overweight. Yet she became convinced that her teachers were chastising her for overeating. Since the letter arrived, ‘my 2-year-old eats more than she does,’ said Georgeanna Dunbar, Karlind?s mother, who complained to the school and is trying to help her confused child. ‘She?s afraid she?s going to get in trouble,’ Ms. Dunbar said. The practice of reporting students? body mass scores to parents originated a few years ago as just one tactic in a war on childhood obesity that would be fought with fresh, low-fat cafeteria offerings and expanded physical education. Now, inspired by impressive results in a few well-financed programs, states including Delaware, South Carolina and Tennessee have jumped on the B.M.I. bandwagon, turning the reports … into a new rite of childhood.
“Legislators in other states, including New York, have proposed them as well, while some individual school districts have adopted the practice.” Holly, 17, said, “I don?t care how big I am. It?s not what you look like, it?s who you are.” Is this not amazing? Even if you cast aside the good intentions here, I guess some parents have just become so distanced that the schools are supposed to do everything. Do you believe parents needing a note from school telling them their kid’s body mass index is off the charts, in order for the parents to do something about it? And now they’re instilling panic in these kids and maybe turning this little six-year-old into an anorexic because she’s afraid she’s in trouble, despite what her mother says — because, of course, what her mother says is wrong; what the school says is what’s right. If the school says it, it must be right. She can’t trust her mother, can’t trust her father.
Well, there’s no mention of the father in the story, which shouldn’t surprise us. He’s probably a predator out having an affair somewhere, but nevertheless (laughing). I apply my own childhood to this, and if I was in the sixth or seventh grade, first or second grade, whatever it is, if my report card was a note telling me my parents I was fat, my parents would go to school, “What the hell are you doing up here? You think I don’t know this? It’s none of your business. I’m handling it.” It’s just mind-boggling.
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