Junior high is often a difficult time as students navigate social mine fields full of drama and adjust to rapidly changing bodies. Those two challenges come together when weighing in as a part of gym class. That is one of the reasons parents in Naperville Dist. 203 are objecting to a physical education class that tracks students' weights.
Parents raised concerns with school district officials, claiming that the focus should be on health, not just a number. One mom told the Chicago Sun-Times that she fears the district's approach to the weigh ins will drive students to eating disorders. Another parent expressed her worry that her child's weight would impact self-esteem. Perception of body image often impacts self-esteem in tweens, according to KidsHealth.com,which also says that tweens may already be struggling as a result of puberty.
John Fiore, instructional coordinator for the district’s physical education program, explained that body composition is one of the five standard measures of fitness. “I don’t think we focus on one data point, because fitness isn’t defined one way.” Students have the option of weighing themselves at home, and are told not to share their numbers with other students. As a tween parent, I find that "telling them not to talk about it" is insufficient at best, and like waving a red flag in front of a bull at worst.
Fiore also said that it was permissible to leave that question on the PE form blank.
The school district states on its website that it "has made a commitment to prepare students to live healthy, productive and physically active lives for the 21st Century" and goes on to specify:
- Physical education will provide every student with a variety of challenges that will contribute to the development and maintenance of their physical, cognitive, and affective well being.
- Students will be provided with the foundation for making informed decisions that will empower them to achieve and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
- Physical Education is a lifelong process, which is the primary responsibility of the student, shared by home, district and community.
My daughter will attend junior high in this school district next year, and I absolutely plan to instruct her to leave that question blank. But I worry. I worry that she will feel pressure to fill it out. I worry that she will feel pressure to achieve a certain number on a scale as opposed to focusing on eating healthy and exercising. I worry that her peers will fixate on weight, their own and their classmates. Those are also fears expressed by current parents whose children were weighed. I worry that a fixation on weight will lead to something like not eating before a gym class, or something more significant, like an eating disorder such as anorexia. At age where growth is uneven, and different from child to child, comparison should be strongly discouraged. Weighing in class seems to invite comparison among peers.
In elementary school earlier this year, my daughter was given a pedometer to wear and asked to track her steps for a week. It was a great motivator. She wanted to reach a certain level. With hours of dance class and some serious outside time play, she did so easily. It made her more aware of how much she was moving, and on a more sedentary day, was a reason for her to be more active. I am completely fine with such an endeavor to keep my child physically fit. I want her to be healthy, but I am not okay with the school tracking my child's weight. I think it is important to make children aware of what a healthy weight is for their body, which is covered in health class.
I think that the district should concentrate its efforts in the physical education realm on the other standard measures of fitness, such as cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength and flexibility. Such standards can likely be improved through participation in junior high gym class. Weight, however, is something impacted by so many external issues completely outside the school environment. The other four factors of fitness used by the district also contribute to healthy kids. Making them weight-obsessed does not.
- Not Sure
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