Should schools send home notes if kids are overweight?

A school system in Flagstaff, Ariz. will be sending letters to parents whose elementary school students are overweight or underweight.

From the Associated Press via AZ

“FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — 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.

The school district’s top nurse estimates about 50 percent of the district’s elementary school students will be classified as overweight or bordering on overweight.

Letters will go to the parents of students who are underweight, overweight, or marginally overweight.”

From the Arizona Daily Star:

“The Associated Press reported that the district expects that about 50 percent of elementary-school students will be classified as overweight or getting there….

“These are serious, serious problems going on inside of these children now, and we have to do drastic things to make them better,” pediatrician Nina Souders told the Flagstaff Unified School District board last week, according to the AP.

FUSD is working with Flagstaff Medical Center’s Fit Kids staff and North Country HealthCare on the program. Parents will be offered recommendations on nutrition and exercise, and urged to consider a visit to a physician, district Superintendent Barbara Hickman told the AP.”

While I am sure this is good-intentioned and there are undoubtedly plenty of heavy children in schools, I am somehow bothered by this!

I guess I feel like that I am aware of what my children weigh. (I can probably tell your what percentile they fall in on the growth charts.) I am on top of their situations and discuss it with their pediatrician, not their teacher.

For example my Rosie is small for her age and there are hereditary and medical reasons why that is. Her pediatrician knows. I know and I am on top of what I am feeding her. I would be angry if I got a note from a school letting me know my child was small. (No S#(* Sherlock. I’m on top of it.)

A  mom wrote a column on Babble about this issue:

“…If schools feel so compelled to join in the fight against obesity, I think they would better serve their students by doing what they are supposed to do: Set a good example and educate.”

“Make room in the curriculum for education about nutrition and exercise.  Get rid of all the junk food at school that has contributed to the problem.  And stop treating physical education and recess as unimportant time-wasters that do little more than distract from the important business of academic testing.”

“And one more thing:  If overweight Arizona students are going to be singled out I think their overweight teachers should be, too.  After all, kids learn by example and an overweight teacher is setting a bad one.”

So what do you think: Would you want a note home letting you know if your child was overweight, underweight or almost overweight? Is that a school’s business? Is it to help families that aren’t seeing a pediatrician regularly? Would a note really change a family’s way? Would you be offended? Is your offense worth maybe helping another child? Would a note make child paranoid about their weight?  What do you think of the Babble’s mom suggestion for how a school could possible help fight obesity?

- by Theresa Walsh Giarrusso, Momania blog

33 comments Add your comment


November 22nd, 2010
12:45 pm

I think overweight kids have overweight parents and they don’t really care. Since the schools teach to the test and health/nutrition aren’t on the test, the schools won’t teach health/nutrition. So the schools can send home all the notes they want, but I don’t think it will matte to the parents at all.

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November 22nd, 2010
1:16 pm

This is a duplicative effort. Children are required to be seen by a physician prior to entering school and then most of us take our children to the doctor on a regular basis–even those of us who have Medicaid or state-funded coverage. You better believe that pediatricians track growth–which includes weight (and height)–and while I know the school system is attempting to “do something” about the public health crisis of overweight and obesity, this is just not going to make anyone take action on their child’s weight.


November 22nd, 2010
1:21 pm

Here’s another example of the government deciding that it will do the job of 50% of all the parents out there who don’t care and have no clue about the condition of their children. The parents who care and who would do something about it already know. The others will never do anything, or, if pressed they’ll say, “Well I can’t make him eat_______.” These are the same parents who tell you they can’t take their kid’s tv out of this room, even if he’s watching “Real Sex” at 3am on school nights and writing about it. They’ll tell you they can’t control their daughter if she wants to stay out all night. They’re not parents -they just bred. They’re worthless and lazy and if giving their kid a bag of Doritoes and a pack of Oreos will shut him or her up -they’re going to do it. A lot of these kids only eat what they find or can buy at the local quick mart after school anyway. Arizona will find it’s just wasted a lot of time and money and made the parents who care angry.


November 22nd, 2010
1:52 pm

jatl, what did I say about trying to stay calm? Also, don’t be cruel. Other people are around to be entertaining, not judged.
It will be interesting to see what happens when a child is humiliated by getting a fat note. How will the fat note be given out? In front of everyone? Probably. So now we get sociology: will being pointed out as being fat make a child decide to lose weight? Or just make the kid fatter?
Schools get on my last nerve. Just make sure the kid has a healthy meal while in the school. And information about nutrition. And a good PE department. The parents can take care of the rest-it’s their job, not the schools.

mom of 3

November 22nd, 2010
2:11 pm

When the school systems start having recess and PE again for everyone of every grade level then they can discuss a child’s weight.

I believe the school system should send home notes to all overweight school employees first and then when they get them under control proceed. If you have school employees overweight the keep the letters in the top desk drawer.


November 22nd, 2010
2:31 pm

While I don’t think it’s neccesarily the responsibility of schools to do something like this, I think there could be times when it might not be a bad idea. I don’t know anything about Flagstaff or whether or not they have PE, recess, and nutrional ed in their schools already, but if the number of overweight kids is high enough and there’s reason to think many kids do not have access to routine health care, it could be a good idea for that community. I’d be against a state or the federal government mandating that schools take this on, but this might be a good approach for some local systems.


November 22nd, 2010
2:31 pm

Send a note home? Why? The parents know their kid is a hog when they lumber out the door every day. They don’t need a note sent home to remind them of their failure as parents to properly feed and care for their kid.


November 22nd, 2010
2:36 pm

Aw, Geeze, more for the teachers to do! At some point we have to let parents take care of their child. Parents, those of you with your snide remarks–teachers do NOT WANT TO SEND HOME THESE NOTES! The school has enough to do feeding, providing clothing, nursing, counseling, social work, transportation, and ….. instruction!

In addition to providing breakfast and lunch free (with federal tax dollars) for 70% of our students, our system sponsored a feeding program this summer for anyone under 18 (with federal tax dollars). We also feed any kid, no matter income, after school (federal tax dollars). And now we have a private program (run through the schools–again, using time paid by your tax dollars) called Snack in a Backpack that will send food home for the students. Finally, a local Girl Scout troop packs boxes of food for kids for spring break.

I am not for kids going hungry but there has to be a point at which parents give up their cell phones and their cable AND FEED THEIR CHILDREN! We have a huge percentage of kids on free lunch who also bring a dollar a day to the school snack (junk food) store! Enough!


November 22nd, 2010
2:41 pm

Bingo, catlady. Their should be no free lunches of any kind. Parents don’t have enough money to feed their kids? Cut the cigarettes, cut the cell phone, cut the cable…feed your own damn offspring! Still can’t do it? Well, the kids don’t eat on the federal dime. Would work wonders with this childhood obesity problem, too!


November 22nd, 2010
2:46 pm

BTW, if that pediatrician thinks it is so critical, SHE needs to be educating her patients and everyone else within earshot! She can’t, cause she is busy? Well, guess what–so are the schools. Everyone’s idea of a problem dumping ground is the school–nutrition, fitness, morals, you name it–it goes into the “Schools will handle” basket on top of EVERYTHING else!


November 22nd, 2010
2:54 pm

And what do they have as role models? I mean if little Johnny wants to be a cop, he has to gain at least 250lbs by the time he’s 25 so he’s starting his education early if he’s fat in the 3rd grade.


November 22nd, 2010
3:29 pm

This is ridiculous. It’s not the school system’s job to tell someone their child is overweight. It’s their parents job to recognize it and their child’s doctor’s job to recommend a course of action for kids who need it. I agree that setting an example is the best thing the school system can do. Stop serving crappy processed food and serve meals that are actually healthy. Kids today probably couldn’t tell you what a balanced meal really looks like. All they see is processed meat sticks and french fries!! Get rid of the junk food vending machines, and replace them with healthier stacks. Have PE classes that actually get the kids active, such as playing organized sports, or running/walking around a track. But don’t waste tax dollars sending letters home to the parents. Trust me, if their kid is fat, they already know it!


November 22nd, 2010
3:40 pm

Personally, I think it’s ridiculous! Parents know if their children are heavy, some just don’t care! They were heavy, their parents were heavy, etc. No need to change things.

I agree that the physicians and office staff (i.e. nurses, medical assistants, PA’s, NP’s) should be educating the parents AND children…oh, and at a level they can understand! If they start talking about carbohydrates, legumes, etc. the parents are going to be LOST!

I think teaching about nutrition during classes is one thing. It is not the school’s responsibility to make sure your child is eating healthy, exercising, brushing their teeth, etc. I realize there are some children who are essentially doing it all themselves (their parents are into drugs, neglectful, etc.), but I don’t think it’s 70% of the schools!!!

I agree with the earlier poster who said if they didn’t have a doctor, that report might be acceptable, otherwise, leave it to the parents and their physicians!


November 22nd, 2010
3:47 pm

I go back and forth on this issue. It is not the school’s business, but the parents are not making it their own business, either. It is the kids that are sufferring. A note isn’t going to do anything, though. A note followed by mandatory attendance in a physical fitness program at school? That would actually do something about the problem. Not that I am saying it is the school’s place.

My daughter was complaining about P.E. She doesn’t want to do it. I told her to look around her school and notice how many of those kids are overweight. I said that might be the only exercise they get. Until all the kids in her school are physically fit, P.E. is important.

It makes me sick to see those kids. Their parents suck.


November 22nd, 2010
5:14 pm

In November, I share my school show about foods. At the end, the children are asked to tell me their favorite foods. It is fascinating what they tell me. Many say chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese. My guess is that a lot of them are eating this on a regular basis.

Here are a few favorites:

couscous ….mushrooms…..olives…..caesar ( sp?) salad….HOORAH FOR THESE PARENTS

One little girl looked at me with a blank stare. The teacher told me,
“she rarely eats…she drinks…” I said, “what?”

“Yes, she drinks two juice boxes for breakfast and her Dad sends in four for lunch. He says it is fine….this was a private preschool.

WHAT? These are PARENTS? I cannot even begin to explain what is wrong with this on so many levels. Even drinking ENSURE is better than consuming 6 juice boxes for sole nutrition.

@ Producer….please check in with HB, she is all over me when I suggest what you have mentioned today. catlady sees this every day. Becky knows fraud first hand, from folks she knows personally. I see it too but must be missing something? If someone can drive a Hummer to school and afford the car payment, gas and insurance…can they not spring $2 for lunch or $6 for 3 kids?
If they spent $6 times 20 days per month that would be $120 and seems like less than the car payment for a Hummer?

Guess my math and reading comprehension are both messed up…JATL…LOL!

Cynthia M

November 22nd, 2010
5:32 pm

Do the schools think the parents are not aware that their kids are overweight? Give me a break. Perhaps their school system would fare better and benefit more by applying this effort in another area – perhaps academics??

Cynthia M

November 22nd, 2010
5:33 pm

And Catlady – you are abolutely on target!! Parental responsibility is a thing of the past. Parents today seem to have one thing on their mind…hold the hand out and ask what someone can do for you and your child!


November 22nd, 2010
5:34 pm

Yes, it’s true. Fool that I am, I don’t think we should just eliminate free lunch altogether and punish the children of working poor instead of putting more effort into checking the eligibility of those enrolled to weed out the abusers. I do remember you long ago mentioning people driving Hummers dropping off kids at school ALL THE TIME and how it angered you that their kids were on free lunch. Yet when I asked you how you knew those kids were on free lunch since you didn’t even know the people, you never did explain how you came to that conclusion. How do you divine that information?


November 22nd, 2010
5:58 pm

When the percentage of free and reduced lunch is quite large, I made an assumption that some of the parents I saw driving Hummers, BMWs, Lincolns, Lexus and other pricey vehicles perhaps could fall into this category. Not too many dumpy cars in the carpool line. OF COURSE I COULD BE WRONG…EVERYONE WHO DRIVES THE FANCY CARS COULD BE PAYING FOR LUNCH.

It does help me come to my conclusion that many teachers affirm my thoughts about who drives what and who is paying for what. This song is being sung by educators everywhere too.
Fools that they are ….:>/ Would they make this up just to fuel my fire…I don’t think so.

Do you think catlady could be wrong and perhaps those on free lunch who have cell phones and cable that are actually being paid for by friends of the family who want everyone to live in style….ya think?

I believe Becky shared an example of someone who lives in a large and expensive house but gets free lunch for her kids and is proud of it. I do not know how to work the system as others do.


November 22nd, 2010
6:43 pm

Hahaha! Interesting method you have there. If I saw mostly nice cars in the carpool line at a school with a high percentage of free lunch kids, silly me, I’d assume the ones on free/reduced lunch were the kids who ride the bus. But you’re probably right, most of the Lexus families are milking the system.

Look, no doubt a lot of abuse of the system goes on, and we need to find ways to stop that (by all means, do income checks for the lunch programs! I agree that’s not checked enough), but having worked with a lot of families and individuals struggling to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table, I can tell you most welfare recipients really are poor, do not drive great cars, and don’t have cable (there are many studies that show this too plus the fact that most welfare families have at least one person working, often two, but at super low-wage jobs).


November 22nd, 2010
7:35 pm

@MJG -did you see the other topic? GTFSO or whatever her name was got ALL out of sorts with us!

Interesting in relation to the whole free lunch thing -my oldest is in PreK at an intown public school. We are having a good experience there, and I think they are around 50% free lunch. Well, I like sending lunch with my child because I find the school lunches kind of scary, but there are those days when time runs out and he needs to buy it. I know he usually does need to pay for it, but when school started, the entire first 3 weeks were free -breakfast and lunch for everybody! I went there for a parent’s lunch day to eat with my son last week, but I elected not to actually eat (it was 10:30 in the morning, and I can’t stomach the food). I asked the lady how much he owed and she said, “Oh -don’t worry about it -it’s free.” Another mother I know who frequently goes there to eat lunch with her child told me it had been free for about two weeks. What’s that all about? The free lunch program gets enough scamming, but what’s up with just giving it all away free to everyone? I would ask my local school board rep, but she’s too busy trying to get our accreditation pulled.


November 22nd, 2010
7:46 pm

ive already had a huge rant on facebook (something i NEVER do) about the issue of people getting free lunches and food stamps etc and have beautiful manicures and hi-lo lights and spend hiundreds of dollars on food with their ebt cards and then shell out over a hundred on video games, cd;s, dvd, etc…so i wont go into all that here….but yeah..the food most of them buy is junk. not all but a great percentage of the ebt users. sending a note home isnt going to do a bit of good. that is a totally wasted effort. do they think the parents dont know their kids are overweight? good grief.


November 22nd, 2010
8:59 pm

Hmmm…no one has mentioned anything about reporting the underweight kids which Arizona will do as well…underweight kids could possibly be in an abusive environment. As far as the food stamp thing goes, if it weren’t for them my brother and I as kids would have had one meal a day, IF we were lucky, without them. Ad HB points out, the vast majority of the folks receiving assistance need it; we are better served by rooting ut the abusers than eliminating the program.


November 22nd, 2010
9:13 pm

I would merely request that EVERY application be checked for accuracy, rather than just a few monitored. Parents know they can fudge and it is unlikely that anything will happen.

Our system just announced that there are already $15,000 in unpaid charges. They decided they cannot give a sandwich, milk, and apple to those who have months of charges. When they did this 2 years ago, the compliance shot up to nearly 100%. We teachers had asked that this happen for years–collect the darned money, or don’t feed the kid. Even stupid parents don’t want their kids to go hungry. Let them provide, or apply for free lunch. The guidelines for qualifying are pretty generous.


November 22nd, 2010
9:43 pm

Checking for accuracy is certainly a fair and compassionate approach, catlady, and shouldn’t be too much to ask. I’m all for running the program better.


November 22nd, 2010
10:17 pm

We DO need to feed the kids that need the food. I totally agree! Some parents may need to forgo other luxuries in order to feed their own children, you know…the ones they created? I am sure there are many who need the free lunch but there are many who do not. I am just going with what teachers across the country tell me…I do not know what happens everywhere.

Blondehoney….my husband also existed on free lunch while his Dad found money for booze and cigarettes. He has LOTS to say about this topic and the embarrassment it brought him while in school. My parents had money but I was made to buy my own lunch in HS…if I wanted it…on my $2.45 per hour job at Wal Mart. I also paid rent to live with my own parents from the time I was 16. That is another story.


November 23rd, 2010
6:21 am

Until school stop serving crap like greasy pizza and Chick-fil-a at lunch every day as alternates and then eliminate opportunities for physical exercise by eliminating recess, etc, then schools are in NO posiition to send pious notes home wagging their finger at parents that their children may be overweight. Do they think that the parents AND the kid doesn’t know that already?


November 23rd, 2010
7:16 am

right on DB…they cant very well send notes home regarding obesity when the food that is served is not healthy.
as far as ebt goes…i realize that a lot of people need them, and do not take advantage…but every day inm y job i see people who have enough money to get their nails done, keep their hair colored nicely, and buy things that are not neccessary…dvd’s, cd’s, video games…a man came in thru the other day and had 24 bottles of wine that was on sale…paid for his food with ebt and cash for the wine. sorry but that is wrong. thats not even the worse—when someone pays 300-400 on ebt and then 150- 200 on games, videos etc…that is wrong. you can tell when someone is used to the ebt way of life and thinks nothing of it..and you can tell when its someone who has recently hit hard times and is trying to make do til they get it back together…sorry to offend or if someone disagrees…but i see this every day at my job.


November 23rd, 2010
7:38 am

deidre…thanks for your take Your point is exactly what I am talking about. I know others have seen what I fuss about.

I need to correct my post that my husband did not exist on free lunch, there was other food at home, but he and his siblings had free lunch while money was spent the other things above. I apologize for the confusion.

This is simply one topic that gets my dander up, as many know.

to me,as deidre mentioned, this is a huge problem:
you can tell when someone is used to the ebt way of life and thinks nothing of it


November 23rd, 2010
8:18 am

Bottom line is this: it is NOT anyone’s job to put food in the mouth of any kid they did not sire. We have become a nation of freeloading tapeworms and it is sickening! EBTs? Give me a break! Used to be the moochers had to show the food stamps they got and at least feel some shame in the fact that they were living off the efforts of others. If you can’t feed your own miserable spawn, don’t have them. We have too many tax takers in the country and a dwindling number of tax makers. The truly needy can seek help from charities and churches and the rest of the worthless can get out and get a job to support your lifestyle.

[...] Should schools send home notes if kids are overweight?Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog)So now we get sociology: will being pointed out as being fat make a child decide to lose weight? Or just make the kid fatter? Schools get on my last nerve. …and more » [...]


November 27th, 2010
9:07 am

I think a DFACS visit would be more appropriate. Making your children fat is a form of child abuse. Although, I’d bet money that the parents are also orca fat. Why do people have children if they can’t even take care of themselves? Here’s my PSA: Birth control is 100% free at the health department!