Obesity Note Controversy

by Nelson Garcia
KUSA News

A Denver mother is upset with something that came home from school in her daughter's bookbag.

In an effort to combat the problem of childhood obesity the Denver Public School District is sending home student health reports to keep parents informed.

However, one mother said it should not have been sent home in her daughter's backpack because she read it.

"The part that upset her the most as she started reading it, there it stated that she was overweight and she started to cry saying, 'Mom, that school tells me I'm fat.' So, it was very heart wrenching," said Flaurette Martinez.

Her daughter Isabel was sent home from the Centennial K-8 School on Monday with the health notice.

It listed her height, weight and body mass index - a measure of body fat.

Underneath the listing it had a marking next to the status "overweight."

"My daughter is big boned," said Martinez.

Isabel's mother does not have a problem with what the schools are trying to do.

She says that type of sensitive information should be mailed directly home to parents, because kids are prone to reading letters sent home by the schools.

"If she would have dropped this letter, a student may have found it and may have exposed it to other students," said Martinez. "Anything specific to the child should be mailed. It should not be given to the child."

However, DPS Spokesperson Alex Sanchez says schools do that all the time.

Report cards, disciplinary notices and letters from the principal are commonly sent home with students.

Sanchez says it is cheaper for the district to send these things home with students instead of by mail.

Martinez says that decision is causing her daughter emotional distress.

"Most of the information that we get sent to us through the kids is basically newsletters, but nothing this sensitive. This is a sensitive issue for everybody," she said. "It's real upsetting for me to see her worried so much about her weight issue when it's not really that big of a deal. She's not that overweight."

DPS issued this statement Thursday afternoon:

"In an effort to help ensure our students' health, Denver Public Schools provides parents with their child's hearing, vision, and body mass index (BMI) results in a sealed envelope that is sent home with the students. DPS feels compelled to inform parents about these very important health screening results and provide information about making healthier choices. The health of our students is very important to us and we wish to be part of the solution, given the nation's childhood obesity epidemic."

Martinez was repeatedly asked by reporters if going public with the matter was what she really wanted to do, and she responded that she wanted people to see her picture so they would know Isabel is not that big.

She also says the damage was already done when she read the notice, and she's talked to Isabel about addressing this issue of sending the notices home with students.

Martinez said her daughter is OK with this information being released.