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.


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4 Responses to “Complaints lead schools to stop weighing students”

  1. Glad not to have kids in school on November 6th, 2013 11:58 am

    Once again the Press has completely failed to ask the most obvious question:

    Is it even legal for a school in the US to require minors to provide personal information to third parties like Welnet?

    I’d really like to know the answer to that question – I suspect it’s a pretty unqualified “no,” and that the district people responsible for this program are likely on the hook for privacy breaches under COPPA or some similar regulation. Middle-school kids are legally incapable of granting consent in situations like this, and since their parents were apparently never told about this, there could not have been ANY informed consent – which seems to make this more like an identity theft (or stalking) service than a health service.

    Another obvious question I’d also like to know the answer to is what Welnet is doing with all the personal information they’ve already collected on all these minors. In these modern times of “big data”, they’re almost certainly trying to monetize it somehow, and pigs will fly before I’ll believe any claims that they either don’t preserve that data or have deleted it for any ex-clients.

    Our schools keep inflicting these privacy-hostile programs on our poor children. I wish school officials would stop falling for the manipulative sales pitches of companies like Welnet. It’s arguably child abuse, and also a waste of school funds.

  2. Nicole on November 7th, 2013 10:40 am

    Seriously? I remember having to step on a scale in junior high PE back in the 80s. As an overweight child, it didn’t hurt my self esteem any more than anything else going on. It’s for the TEACHERS to have; not the other kids. The coddling of kids nowadays — how are they going to survive in the real world?

  3. Anonymous on November 7th, 2013 9:59 pm

    I couldn’t agree more with the commenter from Nov. 6th.
    I don’t remember getting on a scale ANY time during my school career in Issy. Therefore, it is evident that you can teach health and physical ed without obtaining private info from minors and delivering it to a third party.
    How about this… After 13 years of age, my kids doctors no longer have to share my child’s health issues with me, but my kids school can obtain their personal info and give it to Welnet??? I say, heck no. Schools shouldn’t have more control over my child’s health than I do.
    Also, I know many kids destroyed by poor self image. How does this help to be pointing out their differences in public settings?
    Kids cottled these days??? Really?? We didn’t have cyber bullying when I was in school or kids killing each other over getting teased… How are they cottled when schools are setting them up for ridicule?
    If Issy schools want kids to be fit, try giving the kids more than 8 balls to play with on the playground or give them play equipment that is challenging rather than ADA approved? Society whines are kids are unfit but we take away dodge ball, swings, merry go rounds, balls, etc. what a joke. Issy schools knew the Welnet thing was unscrupulous that’s why parents weren’t informed.

  4. Michelle on February 10th, 2014 11:21 am

    I’m currently going through something similar with my child who is 8 in elementary school. They actually weighed her in front of the class and said the number out load so all the children could hear. She was divestated and cried all the way home for school. My daughter is the tallest child and biggest in her class and has been bullied over and over and for her coach to do this really upset me. She’s already has self esteem issues let alone now all the kids that have bullied her about being bigger now know the number she weighs. I don’t feel its fair and am currently trying to get the process changed. I don’t mind them tracking the weight but to make this info public to her classmates is wrong. This mama is angry about this and feel if I would of know this was going to take place I would of never agreed to it. Its so sad that my 8 year old is so self contious she comes home works out watches everything she eats and cries because she’s bigger. She’s not fat she’s just very tall she’s alread 5 3 and is in 3rd grade. She tells me all the time I just wish I could be like everyone else it breaks my heart:( Congratulations to the parents that where able to get this changed in there district.

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