EDUCATION

Naperville District 203 Schools Track Students' Weight, Junior High Parents Furious

12/10/2012 02:01 pm 14:01:56

A plan to track middle school students' weight has some Naperville, Ill., parents up in arms.

Part of the physical education program in Naperville District 203 asks junior high school students to weigh in and record the results, prompting objections from parents who say the choice to opt out of the decade-old program is not enough.

"I said, 'You are creating a generation of eating disorders. You should focus on wellness, not weight," Karen Smith, the mother of a sixth-grade student, told the Naperville Sun. "Here's the problem with optional: You create that drama with weighing."

School officials say students can weigh themselves at home, or simply leave the weight space blank on the fitness card, which factors in other measures, including strength, endurance, flexibility and cardiovascular health. John Fiore, instructional coordinator for the district's physical education program, told the Naperville Sun that schools don't focus on a single data point "because fitness isn't defined one way."

Still, concerned Naperville parents say children independently direct their focus to the weight measurement because it's prominently discussed among peers and on social media -- and because they live in a society that values being thin.

Naperville was once lauded as a district at the forefront of physical education, leading the nation as an example for fostering fitter, healthier children who perform better in academic courses.

Its programs had inspired other districts to adopt more comprehensive fitness programs over the years. States like Arkansas and Michigan, for example, have adopted similar weight-tracking programs and body mass index report cards.

In the U.S., 17 percent -- or 12.5 million -- of children aged 2 to 19 are obese, according to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Another 16 percent or so are overweight and at risk of becoming obese.

A recent report from the CDC revealed that more than one-third of high school students were eating vegetables less than once a day -- "considerably below" recommended levels of intake for a healthy lifestyle.

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