About half of children whose BMI labels them as overweight are healthy and have no risk of diabetes or other conditions, says Kristine Madsen, an assistant professor at the University of California-Berkeley School of Public Health and University of California-San Francisco Department of Pediatrics.
Currently, about 19 states require school-based BMI screenings, while nine recommend it alone or as part of a broader health-related fitness assessment, the Tribune notes. Schools use and share the information from those screenings in different ways. For example, some schools have proposed including it as part of a physical fitness grade, while others only report it to the state or provide only aggregated data. Some schools even send letters home to the parents of kids considered at-risk of obesity.
Sharing BMI scores with parents is intended to help correct perceptions about their child's weight—one survey revealed that parents live in denial about their children's' weight problems. However, the largest study to date on the issue found no difference in obesity rates between kids whose parents received fat letters and those whose parents had not. The researchers found the letters mailed home were poorly designed, overly complex, and lacked context.
Moreover, parents lack information on how to respond appropriately to BMI scores. Dianne Neumark-Sztainer, a professor at the University of Minnesota's School of Public Health, says, "We want to correct parents' perceptions, but what are parents going to do with that information? She adds, "My fear is that their intentions will be good may they may inadvertently do something that will be harmful."More broadly, some parents take issue with weight screenings in school. They say that such screenings can trigger bullying, eating disorders, and inappropriate dieting.