Complaints lead schools to stop weighing students
November 5, 2013
By Neil Pierson
The Issaquah School District will no longer be collecting student height and weight measurements in physical education classes after several parent complaints.
This year, the district’s five middle schools began using a new method for tracking fitness data and helping students achieve goals in P.E. classes. An online tool known as Welnet is being used to gather the data, then communicate the results to teachers, parents and students.
Welnet can help teachers compile body mass index results for their students. The BMI is a percentage-based scale that rates whether a person is underweight, overweight or of normal weight.
To collect BMI data, Issaquah’s middle-school students were asked to step on scales and write their weight on cards during P.E. classes. When parents learned of the procedure, some expressed concerns, and in an electronic newsletter sent Oct. 28, the district said at least one student felt uncomfortable about it.
Sarah Ransom, who has two daughters attending Beaver Lake Middle School, said she and her husband, Chris, were alarmed for several reasons, including the possibility of damaging a child’s self-esteem.
“We were concerned that with the immense amount of pressure already put on children, especially girls, that children would compare themselves with others and if they did not fit right in the ‘normal’ range they would think less of themselves,” Ransom said via email.
She added that BMI might not accurately portray a person’s overall health, and that the information might not be kept private, which could “provide more ammunition” for bullying at school.
Issaquah Superintendent Ron Thiele sent an email to district families Oct. 29, and said height and weight measurements would no longer be collected at schools.
“While we did not intend to create an uncomfortable environment for students, it has become clear that asking for, or recording height and weight information in P.E. classes, has had, for some, that unintended effect,” Thiele wrote.
Ransom said she was pleased the district was changing its policy, but felt parents should’ve known the details about Welnet beforehand. The only reason they found out, she added, was because of a female student complaining to her parents.
“Every school has a curriculum night and ideally this would have been discussed at that time … to make sure all families were aware of the new policy,” Ransom wrote.
The district stated it would look into other options for obtaining BMI data, including having students and parents record height and weight figures at home. Students will also be able to opt out of the BMI curriculum component.
“We are confident that we can still meet the goal of educating all students about healthy behaviors without this data,” Thiele wrote.