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.