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Saturday, February 25th, 2012

None of your business

Schools say student health not state's concern; only IC complies with BMI testing

By Shelley Grieshop

Lauren Anderson and Brenton Engle practice cup stacking in gym class Thursday mo. . .

School districts in the Grand Lake area continue to refuse the state's demand for student health data.
All schools, except Immaculate Conception Catholic School in Celina, for the second consecutive year are waiving a state requirement to measure and report students' Body Mass Indexes. A student's health and weight is a private issue that should be left to parents and experts, local administrators say.
"We feel a child's health information should be collected, documented and screened by licensed health professionals," Minster Local Schools Superintendent Brenda Boeke said. "Doctors and other health care professionals are the best people to determine whether a child's weight is healthy."
In June 2010, legislators approved the Healthy Choices for Healthy Children Act - Ohio Senate Bill 210 - which requires schools to implement various measures to fight childhood obesity. Amendments to the bill eventually gave schools and parents the option to annually waive the BMI mandate indefinitely.
Only 242 schools complied during the 2010-2011 school year, while 686 schools submitted waivers, according to information from the Ohio Department of Education (ODE).
A simple BMI screening calculates weight and height to determine if a person is underweight, healthy, overweight or obese. Generally, the higher the number, the more fat in the body.
Schools that comply must screen students in kindergarten, third, fifth and ninth grades. Individual results are mailed to parents; only numbers, no names, are sent to ODE.
Most school boards and superintendents balked at the Healthy Choices law, saying they had no funds to meet the requirement, it invaded the privacy of their students and added to the mounds of paperwork the state already demands.
Some area schools, such as Coldwater, perform BMI screenings and other fitness tests on elementary students with reports sent only to parents, not the state.
Polly Muhlenkamp, superintendent of IC, said the Catholic schools' decision to comply with the BMI request was based on unique circumstances.
"We have a volunteer nurse, and we're a small school," she said, adding the annual requirement takes just one day. "It's not a big issue for us."
Each student is screened privately; their parents can opt out with no repercussions, she added.
"It is one small step we are taking to help our families make healthy choices about their diets and exercise," Muhlenkamp said. "We encourage families to do active things together. We are simply providing parents with information."
She and the school nurse recommend that parents check out two websites: and
The Healthy Choices law also establishes nutritional standards for certain foods and beverages sold in school vending machines and cafeterias, requires daily physical activity for students and creates a Healthy Choices for Healthy Children council.

Study findings:
An Ohio Department of Health study from 2004 to 2010, which examined BMI and other data from Ohio third-graders, revealed the following information:
• More than one-third of the state's third-graders remained overweight/obese during the time period studied.
• Overall rates of overweight and obesity haven't changed in five years.
• Low-income children were significantly more likely to be obese compared to other children.
• Overweight and obesity prevalence was greatest among children who drank more than one sugar-sweetened beverage per day.
• Children who watched three or more hours of TV per day had a higher prevalence of being overweight or obese, compared to those who watched less.
- Shelley Grieshop
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