BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts schools will no longer send letters to parents about the weight of their children after public health officials decided to end the practice, citing concerns about bullying and privacy.
The Public Health Council voted 10-1 to eliminate the practice Wednesday.
Health officials said there was evidence that informing parents of their child’s weight status had no effect on pediatric obesity.
The council also said that there had been reports of incidences where confidentiality about the height and weight measurements was not safeguarded, leading to “alarm, confusion or embarrassment.”
“DPH (Department of Public Health) does not have the ability to monitor how the communication is being done at the local level and ensure that it is being done in sensitive and confidential manner,” a report presented to the health council on Wednesday said.
That led to worries that the information could lead to bullying and end up harming a student’s self-image.
Schools still will be required to collect height and weight and calculate body mass index measurements for students in the first, fourth, seventh and 10th grades, and to provide the aggregate data to state health officials.
Parents still would be allowed to request the information about their students.
The DPH defended the continued gathering of body mass index information in an aggregate form saying the information has “helped the department to target, strengthen, and evaluate initiatives that are successfully reducing the incidence of childhood obesity.”
At the same time the department conceded “there is emerging evidence that the parental notification letter does not play a role in the success of these programs, but does serve as a lightning rod for generating public opinion that opposes them.”