A state law goes into effect next month that regulates food and beverages in schools includes a provision for body mass index (BMI) and weight screening for students in four grade levels. BMI is a measure of body fat based on a person’s height and weight.
But the law allows districts to seek a waiver from implementing screening programs and some school officials say they plan to do just that.
It comes down to how to best utilize time and financial resources for school administrators.
“If we were to do our own BMI testing we would need to contract with a service provider to come out and do the assessments. Therefore, this is yet another unfunded mandate. The time required for reporting of this information and getting the results out to parents would require more time for our already overworked office staff. Obesity is a national health care crisis, and correcting the problem should be within the public health realm and not public schools,” Eastwood superintendent Brent Welker said in his weekly newsletter.
Northwood superintendent Greg Clark said he’ll be recommending the board of education not implement a testing program.
“We’ll be asking for a waiver,” he said. “We have less to spend and can better spend our money on different things.”
Citing a lack of funding and time, Genoa schools also have no plans to assess students for BMI this school year, said Dennis Mock, superintendent.
“Last year, in cooperation with the Ottawa County Health Department, our school nurse tested all students in grades K-5. The data was submitted to obtain grants through the health department. Our nurse has not received any correspondence at this time,” he said.
The law calls for participating schools to require students in kindergarten, third grade, fifth grade, and ninth grade to undergo screening for BMI and weight status before May 1 of each year.
Parents may opt to not have their children screened.
Participating school systems have the option of providing screenings or contracting for the service.
Welker notes that students consume 25 percent of their meals at school if they eat there everyday.
“Schools are not responsible for obesity, and studies show that kids put weight on during the summer, not the school year,” he said. “Public health officials should be the ones to lead this charge.”
Mike Zalar, superintendent of Oregon schools, said the district reserves the right to apply for a waiver but is developing a pilot program that is being coordinated by the district’s nurse.
“We are anticipating that the BMI screening pilot program would begin this spring,” he said.
Other provisions of the law:
• Restrict the sale of certain foods and beverages to students during the school day and before- and after-school programs. School fundraising, athletic, and related events are exempt.
• Regulate the placement of vending machines in schools.
• Require teachers initially hired on or after July 1, 2013 to teach physical education in a school district be licensed in physical education.
• Establish the Healthy Choices for Healthy Children Council. It includes appointees from the Ohio Children’s Hospital Association, Ohio Business Roundtable, Ohio Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and school administrators and school board members.