Lively and in-depth discussions of city news, politics, science, entertainment, the arts, and more.
Hosted by Larry Mantle
Airs Weekdays 10 am - 12 pm

Should schools send 'fat letters' to parents? (Poll)

Should parents receive letters about their children's weight?
Should parents receive letters about their children's weight?
China Photos/Getty Images

Listen to story

Download this story 0MB

Some public schools in the country send the results of students’ BMI Screening home to parents that indicate their child’s BMI percentile and weight category. It’s also been referred to as “fat letters,” because it lets parents know if their child is overweight.

The purpose of the letter is to inform parents of their child’s health, and its coming under some harsh criticism.

According to a report published by Berkeley Professor Kristine Madsen, 13 states require BMI screening (Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Tennessee).  Seven states, including California, require  a fitness assessment that includes a body component. But only 9 states, like Massachusetts and Illinois, require parental notification of the results.  

In California, the state requires all students in 5th, 7th and 9th graders to take part in a “Fitnessgram” assessment. The results must be sent to the state, but individual school districts decide if the information is sent to parents.

Proponents say that giving the parents the fitness results are necessary to reduce childhood obesity. Opponents say that if letters are sent out, they need to come with helpful information not just numbers. Others worry how this could affect students’ self esteem.

Do you think parents should be notified of BMI Test Results? Do schools have a responsibility to monitor their students health?  What impact can test results have on students’ self esteem?


Michael Flaherty, Pediatrician, Baystate Medical Center and Tufts University School of Medicine in Massachusetts. Member of American Academy of Pediatrics

Claire Mysko, Manager of Proud2Bme, the teen program of the National Eating Disorder Association based in New York