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Mom Angered by School's 'Fat Letter' to Her Daughter

"Fat Letters" outrage parents

Much has been made lately about so-called "fat letters" being sent to parents by schools throughout the country. The letters, which are mailed to parents with kids that have a body mass index (BMI) in the 85th percentile or higher, are all part of an effort to raise awareness and open up a conversation about the risks of childhood obesity. But not everyone's pleased about it.

Take Kristen Grasso, a mom from Naples, Fla. She received one such letter recently about her 11-year-old daughter, Lily. And she's pretty PO'ed. The pre-teen is 5'3", a star on her middle school volleyball team, and a healthy eater, according to her mom. But according to her school district, the fact that Lily's 124 lbs. at 5'3" gives her a BMI that puts her in the 89.56 percentile of her age group. And that means she's at risk for being overweight.

Grasso's not buying any of that, though. And she argues that the accusation that her daughter is unhealthy isn't just offensive, it's damaging to her self-esteem. As Grasso told Fox 4 News, "Lily is tall, she's athletic, she's solid muscle. By no means is she overweight."

Lily was tested as part of a routine health screening mandated by the state of Florida for school kids. Parents can opt out, but Grasso chose not to—she thought the screenings were more about vision and hearing testing, not weight.

Florida's not alone in its tactics, though; about 20 other states have taken up the mandatory health screenings, too, which include weigh-ins and BMI calculations.

"School health screening programs provide valuable information to parents and help ensure that Florida's students are healthy and ready to learn," Florida Department of Health spokesperson Sheri Hutchinson told The Huffington Post. Plus, it's important to note that more than 32 percent of Florida school kids between 10 and 17 are actually considered overweight or obese.

For Grasso, and other parents, they want to know just how effective these letters are, anyway—and they question the kinds of complexes the letters may give kids who don't actually have a weight problem.

But according to Dr. Michael Flaherty, a clinical associate in pediatrics at Tufts University School of Medicine, there isn't any evidence yet that so-called "fat letters" actually cause eating disorders, unhealthy eating habits, or bullying. His report in the journal Pediatrics, Fat Letters' in Public Schools: Public Health Versus Pride, looked into the exact kind of screening letters parents like Grasso receive.

Still, he told Today that "There remains to be any studies demonstrating BMI screening's effectiveness in leading to increased referral to weight management treatment programs or declines in chronic disease."

In fact, many experts claim the whole BMI scale a flawed measure of whether or not a person is fat to begin with, because it rules out other things about a person, like where the fat is stored, age and how much muscle a person is actually carrying around.

What do you think of the whole "fat letter" debate?

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