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Published October 08, 2013, 05:49 PM

Local schools react to "fat letters"

All eyes are on local school districts and how they monitor student health after so-called "fat letters" recevied national attention.

By: Cynthia Johnson, WDAZ

All eyes are on local school districts and how they monitor student health after so-called "fat letters" recevied national attention.

While most parents are used to getting letters sent home about their child's grades or behavior, they probably aren't used to hearing about weight. One Florida student was sent home with a so-called "fat letter," sparking a heated debate.

We talked with school officials in Grand Forks, East Grand Forks and Fargo. All said they do not have Body Mass Index screenings at school or send home letters about a student's weight.

At central Middle School in East Grand Forks, students take nutritional classes to learn about healthy food options. With gym classes, sports activities and a variety of lunch options, school officials say they encourage students to live a healthy lifestyle on a daily basis. Schools in 19 states participate in annual weigh-ins, measuring student's BMI and sending reports home to parents. Experts say with a third of American children determined overweight or obese, these letters can help make some progress. Local school officials, however, say these letters send students the wrong message.

"Some students, particularly at the middle school level, can have kind of a low self esteem in general, so something like this might just add to that problem," said Central Middle School Principal Lon Ellingson.

Others disagree. "The purpose here is to identify kids as they're gaining weight so you can intervene to prevent them from becoming obese. That's a really good thing," said ABC News' Medical Correspondent Richard Bessar.

In Grand Forks schools, officials say students can weigh themselves if they'd like, but that information stays with the student. Fargo school officials say that students undergo screenings in PE classes for things like BMI, flexibility and muscle endurance, but the Fargo schools collect that information to apply for grants, and it's up to the student to share results with their parents.

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