Editorial: Weight testing needs overhaul

The Citrus County Health Department took a state-mandated health screening too far when it gave the results of Body Mass Index tests to children in front of their peers. The county changed the plan to send letters to students’ homes, but this still is not sufficient. Such screenings should be approved by parents and not mandated by the state of Florida.

The health screenings performed include a test measuring whether a student is overweight, underweight or considered to be at risk for either condition. Florida requires health screenings in kindergarten, third, sixth and ninth grades, but individual health departments can expand the programs as they see fit for its particular county’s students.

While this is certainly helpful, it raises several problems. Many parents take the notices to be accusations that they are bad parents. Some students who received letters in class were ridiculed by other students. Furthermore, some local Citrus County doctors said they weren’t even sure how conclusive the results of the testing were.

Maintaining good health is certainly an honorable pursuit, but the manner in which it is being evaluated is wrong. Providing the option for health screenings is beneficial and may even help target eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia. Some students’ lives may even be saved with such screenings, but at the same time it is not right to require all students to be screened when parents may already be addressing such problems without the state’s intervention. Thus, parents should have to give their permission to schools before students are allowed to be screened.

The program can remain the same after such a change. Thus, if a student is found to be overweight, underweight or at risk of becoming either, it will be the parents’ discretion to further the matter and it will be less likely that the students’ peers will know the results.