Are 'Fat Letters' a Good Idea?

Avatar for cmkristy
iVillage Member
Registered: 07-05-2005
Are 'Fat Letters' a Good Idea?
Thu, 08-22-2013 - 8:07am

Massachusetts -- which has had a weight screening program since 2009 -- is one of 21 states that have implemented statutes or advisories mandating that public schools collect height, weight, and/or BMI (body mass index) information. Some states further require that parents receive confidential letters informing them of the results, advising that they discuss the findings with a health care provider.

But some parents in the Bay State and elsewhere consider such policies an unwelcome intrusion into private family matters. Other objectors say "fat letters," as they are sometimes called, have the potential to trigger bullying or eating disorders among the very children they're trying to help.

In Massachusetts, where parents are letter-informed of BMI results for students in grades 1, 4, 7 and 10, the state department of public health is currently debating a possible repeal of the letter portion of its screening protocol.

Should Parents of Heavy Kids Get "Fat Letters" From School? -

What do you think? Is BMI something that schools schould be tackling?  Is it a good idea to send home BMI results to parents?

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Community Leader
Registered: 04-07-2008
Thu, 08-22-2013 - 2:22pm

If the schools are sending out BMI results along with educational information about BMI to all students, then I think it is okay. That doesn't single anyone out and may help many more people than just some overweight students.

I don't like the idea of schools getting involved in parenting matters but since obesity problems are affecting all of us as a whole, something needs to be done. The schools are probably a good place to start.

Community Leader

iVillage Member
Registered: 05-27-1998
Thu, 08-22-2013 - 3:01pm

It's not just the fat kids who get the letters in MA. It's any kid whose BMI falls above OR below the normal range. So in 7th grade, my very underweight son got one in his backpack. Since he was already being bullied, I'm not sure whether the letter did any more harm.

I do know that it was a PITA because I had to get a doctor's signature on a form stating that she was aware of my son's "weight issue" and that he was healthy in spite of his very low BMI.

I'm not sure schools should be in the business of policing fat or underweight people. I'd rather them just teach my kids, while keeping discipline issues and shootings to a minimum! ;)


Avatar for elc11
Community Leader
Registered: 06-16-1998
Sat, 08-24-2013 - 6:11pm

I think it could be okay. If they are actually confidential, mailed to the parents. Sent home with the student, there is an opportunity for other kids to see it and use the infomation against the child.

Ideally the schools wouldn't be involved in these health matters but the reality is that some families use the school nurse as their child's primary healthcare provider, just as some expect the school to be the primary educator in non-academic topics such as morals, manners, and hygiene. 

If such a letter wakes up some parents and gets them more involved in their child's wellbeing and results in a healthier BMI for the student, then its a good thing.

iVillage Member
Registered: 10-17-2012
Mon, 09-16-2013 - 8:53pm

It's absurd and unnecessarily humiliating and just another example of the nanny state sticking it's nose where it doesn't belong.  You're telling the parent something they should already know and can probably figure out just by looking.  But to be fair, I'd say go ahead with the letters as long as the weight and waist size of every teacher and administrator was published in the local newspaper as well.