Fat Letters Are No More

The state voted to stop the practice of sending letters home with a student's height, weight, and BMI.

Massachusetts is one of 21 states that measures a child’s weight and height at school, but only nine of those states send letters home to parents. The public and media has called those pieces of paper “fat letters.” And now, that number will be down to eight.

Public health officials voted to cut the controversial letters after complaints that the practice led to bullying and excessive costs for schools. Schools will still measure height and weight in grades 1, 4, 7, and 10, which officials say helps them gather data on obesity trends.

Some parents have been outraged at receiving these letters, saying that the government should stay out of their affairs. But others have said that these letters are necessary, and perhaps the parent’s anger should be directed at themselves for what they feed their children. Regardless of where you stand on the debate, the issue is no longer a problem, at least in the Commonwealth.

According to the Globe:

“The data we have collected through this core initiative has been key to our success,” said Carlene Pavlos, director of the state health department bureau that runs the screening program. Pavlos said that three years of data they collected from the program show a consistent across the state decrease of student’s height and weight, known as body mass index, of 2.4 percent.

The state Department of Public Health solicited public comments last month about the proposed changes and received 16 written responses, including nine from various health organizations that supported the action. Two people, including a longtime school nurse, urged regulators to stick with parental notification.

“Not all parents may be aware that their child may be reaching an unhealthy weight status and by not providing this information as it is collected increases the likelihood that the child will continue increasing in weight,” wrote M. Laurette Hughes, a registered nurse who said she worked for 15 years in school districts in Vermont and Boston.