An effort to suspend Body Mass Index (BMI) testing  for a year in the physical education program in the Evanston/Skokie District 65 middle schools was narrowly defeated Monday night by the school board on an issue that positioned the administration and the board leadership on opposite sides.

BMI measurement is a tool promoted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control to help in the battle against rising obesity among young people.

A number of parents protested the procedure primarily on the grounds that quantifying a child’s health potential could lead to embarrassment and bullying in the event that the confidential BMI number became known.

Because the issue generated so much controversy, the board’s vice president, Richard Rhykus, supported by Board President Tracy Quattrocki, offered a motion to suspend the testing next year while the board continued to study the matter and alter the procedures to address parental concerns.

The administration, represented by Superintendent Hardy Murphy, voiced strong objections to the motion and argued that the testing, a basic component of a decades-long program in the district called Fitnessgram, be continued, although he said the administration was willing to make procedural changes as deemed necessary by the Board.

The final vote on the measure, taken just before 9 p.m. after nearly an hour’s discussion, was three in favor and four against. Only new board member Claudia Garrison supported the board leadership, while Katie Bailey, Eileen Budde, Candance Chow, and Suni Kartha voted with the administration.

After the vote was taken, the board took another vote authorizing the administration to continue the program, but directed that the Fitnessgram results be sent only by email or by regular mail to the parents and not given directly to the student. That motion also directed the district’s Wellness Council to report back to the Board in June of 2014 with recommendations for next year.

That motion was approved by a vote of 6 to 1, with Quattrocki casting the negative vote.

Related story:

‘Self-esteem’ at issue in BMI testing

Charles Bartling

A resident of Evanston since 1975, Chuck Bartling holds a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and has extensive experience as a reporter and editor for daily newspapers, radio...

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  1. No, politics prevailed

    This decision was politically motivated.  From what I understand, many teachers were not even allowed to voice their opinions on this issue. Please don't believe everything you read or hear as the gospel truth.

  2. What’s next — no paper report cards?

    Will this be next:

    "In response to parent criticism and petitions, the District 65 School Board has eliminated paper report cards going home in student backpacks. Board members were persuaded by parents that students may be ridiculed and bullied if other students see the paper report cards or if students even hear about someone else's grades. Student grades will be available to parents by email or U.S. mail only."

    I think that the School Board reached a rational result on the BMI issue. So if it is a good result for BMI information, is it also the result for distributing grades?  I have heard about many other students' grades from my child as children swap or otherwise find out thus information. On the other hand, my child has never once mentioned anyone else's BMI number. 

    I do not have a personal opinion on the issue. Just wondering if this is what's next based on the same concerns and reasoning. 

  3. Fat letter coming to you soon

    This is a civil rights violation.  Not to mention the BMI is not a comletely reliable measurement. Crazy

    1. Civil rights violation? Huh?

      In what sense is receiving information about whether a person is or is not overweight a civil rights violation?  And while BMI may not be completely reliable, it's about as good of a measure as there is, unless you want to spend a lot of money and time. 

      1. Not completely reliable?

        "BMI may not be completely reliable"?  It is fundamentally unreliable, simple fact.  Yet we continue spending and wasting a lot of money and time on this "unreliable" program.  Why? 

        The CDC has stated "little is known about the outcomes of BMI measurement programs, including effects on weight-related knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors of youth and their families.  As a result no consesnsus exists on the utility of BMI screening programs for young people." 

        Anyone who thinks this is necessary to implement a program to "teach" healthy lifestyles should rethink the failure of their BMI position.  We have been using this worthless data collection for a long time and the results have obviously been an absolute and complete FAIL on every level.

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