The school district Wednesday unanimously agreed for the third year to ask the Ohio Department of Education to waive its requirement that Mason measure the BMI of students and report those numbers to parents and the state.
“Childhood obesity is an important issue, but we think body mass index screenings of children is a matter better left to families and their physicians rather than the schools,” said Mason Superintendent Gail Kist-Kline.
The BMI requirement is part of the Ohio’s Healthy Choices for Healthy Children Act, which took effect in June 2010. School districts annually must take BMI, a measure of body fat based on a person’s height and weight, in kindergarten and grades 3,5 and 9.
The number helps determine whether a child’s weight could place him or her at risk for chronic health conditions, such as diabetes or heart problems.
According to the Ohio Department of Health, more than 30 percent of children and adolescents are overweight or obese. More than one third of Ohio’s third graders are overweight and 18 percent are obese.
The law requires schools to report aggregated student BMI, along with demographic data, to the ODH. No information can identify an individual child.
Under the law, schools, including private and charter schools, can request a waiver to the screenings. The law also allows parents to opt their children out of the screenings.
The Ohio Department of Education reported that for the 2010-2011 school year, 686 requests were made for waivers, while 242 districts submitted screening data.
Districts have been critical of the unfunded state screenings, citing a lack of staff, time and expertise. Others say that the unfunded mandate cuts into class time and that BMI screenings are not the school’s job.