Laura Cacdac was quite upset the other day when her six-year-old daughter Charley brought home a sealed letter from the school.
The letter stated that Charley was over the 85% percentile for BMI for her age and sex. This letter was sealed and sent by the school’s nurse to the parents, which is regulated by the Palm Beach Heath Department to monitor childhood obesity and other things.
This program is for students in Florida to test items vision, hearing, Scoliosis, and Body Mass Index (BMI).
Laura was outraged. She rightfully defended her daughter saying that she eats fruits and vegetables, and she is not fat.
Here is a copy that the State of Florida uses. In the letter, fat is used in two contexts. One was describing “body fat” and the other was saying how body fatness is different for boys and girls. The letter that was sent home with Charley was a little different. It did not use the word fat at all.
On both letters, no one is “called” fat. In fact, As stated in the State of Florida School Health Manual on BMI “Referrals needs to made made with sensitivity and understanding.”
The test said that she was in the 85% percentile; there is concern, and she should see a physician. The term Just like a child in the 99% percentile. So yes, the school could have used better discretion.
While Laura called the school nurse about her feelings, she heard her daughter say…
“Do they think I’m fat? Is there something wrong with me?”
Laura brought her letter and story to the media that her daughter was fat shamed. It is in every news outlet now.
I have, to be honest. I have written a lot of stories about fat shaming. I hate any discrimination about weight, “fat” or “skinny”. I have written stories of teachers humiliating students about their weight, women being abused online for their size and even kids being bullied about their weight. I have written about women being made fun of for being a size zero and judging those at the gym.
This story is not one of them. Laura, the mother, made this story into a fat shaming one and used a six-year-old in it. That is the biggest shame.
Nowhere on the form letter was the term fat used as a description of a person. No one called Laura’s daughter fat. She did a three second test that is flawed for some, but eye-opening for others.
It was administered by a health professional, not an opinionated teacher. No one looked a six-year-old up and down and said “Yep! You are fat!”
The letter was sealed. The teacher did not call Charley to the front and say “Hey Porky, get this for your mom!” It was confidential.
The thing is; there is no reading between the lines on this. The parents allowed a test, it was administered by the nurse at the school, and the results came back. The Palm Beach Health Department is extremely clear how the test runs online. Laura could have typed the same information on any website.
I do not think this story should have gone public. I think it could have easily been handled by the school to discuss the results. I do not think that BMI is even close to the only factor in diagnosing obesity.
A doctor could have easily proven that young Laura was not “fat”.
I will tell you what is weird. I was an obese child. I heard about my weight from teachers, coaches, kids and everyone else who wanted to tell me about it. It was never about my BMI. It was degrading advice on where I was and how I would stay there.
Who knows? Maybe it is all semantics.
But reading this story made me upset. Not at the school as much as the parent. As much as the parent who must use the word fat in the house since her daughter said it and already formed an opinion on fat. The mother who seems to make her daughter feel like being fat is the worst thing in the world.
If you did not want the test, then opt out. There was nothing in the letter that was opinionated or any different than any other health message.
“Because if I were fat, it would make me sad and kind of feel bad like I was different than everybody else,” six-year-old Charley said when asked about being fat.
Don’t worry mom. I put your daughter’s numbers to the Florida Health Department website.
She is fine.