If you fashion yourself a food cop crusading against an apocalyptic scourge of obesity, you can justify some pretty nutty things. We've seen San Francisco ban Happy Meal toys, the New York City Health Commission compare soda to liquid fat, and an anti-business hack group ludicrously compare fast food to drugs and firearms. Now the Flagstaff, Arizona school district has proposed a solution worthy of a Michael Bloomberg Nanny Award: warning parents if their kids are fat according to school measurements:
The Flagstaff school district will be sending letters to a parents whose elementary school children are overweight or headed in that direction.
Pediatrician Nina Souders told the Flagstaff Unified School District board last week that being overweight is a serious problem.
The district's elementary school students will be weighed and measured this fall with help from Flagstaff Medical Center's Fit Kids staff and North Country HealthCare.
If you're worried that these letters are the equivalent of putting a target on a kid's back for bullies, you'd be correct. Already, one girl in Buckeye, Ariz., was humiliated when the school sent her mother a letter warning that she was obese. The girl's mother told Fox Phoenix, "They didn't mail it home[,] they didn't even bother putting it in an envelope. It was stapled with a cover letter for her and all her friends to see. For an 11-year-old girl in junior high it sent me through the roof."
Food nannies seem to think that when existing heavy-handed regulations don't work, it's time to humiliate the children.
Incredibly, this isn't the first time this has been tried. Arkansas made the same mistake by mandating that schools issue fat report cards back in 2003. The completely predictable result was that 13 percent of parents said their kids had been teased at school because of the program while the state reported absolutely no drop in childhood obesity.
The British National Health Service tried the same thing and ended up sending the parents of perfectly healthy students warning letters that their son or daughter was overweight. The reason? Both American and British authorities classify obesity based on body mass index (BMI), a deeply flawed measurement that classifies everyone from LeBron James to Taylor Lautner as having weight problems because it essentially treats muscle as fat.
LeBron James probably wouldn't care if he got a letter telling him he's supposedly overweight. For a child, though, that can be devastating. We're sure Flagstaff has a fine school system, but they get an F in Common Sense 101.