You are sitting in either health or gym class. There is a light chatter amongst the room since the bell hasn’t quite rung yet. Today’s class is different. Today you are taking your body mass index (BMI).
The bell rings and your teacher walks into the room holding a couple of BMI calculators, some calipers, and a packet that you have to fill out.
This method of teaching body health is found in high schools, such as Highlands. It makes sense. The best way to teach a student about body health is by using them as a prime example in their independent studies.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states, “There are two types of BMI measurement programs and each serves a specific purpose. Surveillance: To identify the percent of students in the school or school district who are underweight, healthy weight, overweight or obese. Screening: To provide parents with information on whether their child is underweight, healthy weight, overweight or obese.”
Highlands High School requires freshman to take a semester-long health class and a semester-long gym class. In both classes, students have to take their body fat percentage while learning about the effects of being underweight, overfat, and overweight.
However, taking your BMI is only the beginning. Afterward, you have to fill out an assignment form questioning you about your results within a group of peers.
Freshman year is already quite a big change. A change in environment. Possibly puberty. Most likely drama with friends.
Now, you have to add your weight into the mix and find out if you are socially acceptable or not. Why should a teacher know your BMI in the first place?
Body fat percentages should be recorded in a private doctors appointment. There are rules and regulations about patient/physician confidentiality to protect personal health information. The right to privacy is personal and fundamental, according to the AAFP.
While understanding that teachers are only doing this to teach and not to make students feel self-conscious, it still doesn’t seem right to have BMI’s recorded in a public setting, especially if a student is uncomfortable throughout the process.
I had gym first semester my freshman year. When we did our first BMI calculation, my result was 26%, which is technically overfat.
In the second semester, I had health. It wasn’t until around May when we had to calculate our BMI again. My result was 13%. I was officially underweight by 5% and dropped half of my body fat in less than a year. That fact was not only shocking but frightening too.
Teenage eating disorders are increasing in statistics throughout the world, whether it be anorexia, bulimia, binge eating, or binge and purge. At least 30 million people of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder in the U.S., according to the Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD). According to the National Association of Eating, “disorders in schools are almost as prevalent as alcohol and drug abuse.”
A parent wants to protect their child from harm. This could be from something physical, mental, or emotional. This way of teaching body health could make students feel uncomfortable if their body type isn’t classified as “normal”. Why is it that we need parental permission to go outside and watch an eclipse, but not even a notification goes home for an activity that involves the students’ body health?
Parents should have a say in this lesson regarding whether their child is allowed in the activity. Taking the BMI of a student can cause fear, self-consciousness, embarrassment, etc. A simple permission form for a parent may also make the activity more comfortable for the student.