Steps have been taken by Evanston/Skokie School District 65 to satisfy the demands of parents over assessing a student’s Body Mass Index (BMI), and apparently they have been successful, if Monday night’s board meeting was any indication.

Last year, parents were up in arms over the way the index, which measures a person’s body fat, was taken in the middle schools, resulting in some kids being teased by their peers for being obese when test results leaked out.

Many parents petitioned the board to discontinue the testing, but the board resisted on the grounds that the measurement is a key factor in helping students to conquer obesity.

So they implemented procedures which kept the BMI number a secret from the students, while enabling parents to secure the information about their child confidentially over the internet, requiring a password.

They also simplified the procedure by which a parent could opt out of the assessment being taken altogether.

They even invited parents to an “Information Night” where staff could address concerns that parents might have and where they demonstrated the procedure of implementing the test.  Only three families showed up, however, which was interpreted as an indication that parents were satisfied with the information they had received.

The statistics told the story: Some 117 of the 1,938 middle school students slated to be tested opted out of the procedure. Of the remainder, 215 were rated as “needs improvement,” while 434, or 22 percent, scored in the “health risk” zone.

The school followed up with the parents of those indicated as a health risk and offered to help them find a doctor for a consultation.

BMI is one component  of the FitnessGram program, designed to teach students better eating and exercise habits in an effort to curb obesity.

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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