Kids who attend New York City public schools have been receiving body mass index weight report cards since 2005 in an effort by technocratic officials to shame overweight students into shedding pounds.
A study published this week in the official scientific journal of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that the decade of report cards has been a dismal failure, reports the Daily Mail.
The study involved four years of weight data for all students in New York City’s public schools. When Columbia University economist Douglas Almond and Columbia graduate student Ajin Lee crunched the numbers, they found that no sign of weight loss among boys and girls who weighed slightly over the “overweight” and “obese” thresholds for their ages.
Girls labeled as overweight tended to gain more weight after school officials informed them of their fleshiness.
“It’s not enough just to get the information out there,” study co-author Syracuse University economics professor Amy Ellen Schwartz said, according to the Mail.
“You have to get it to people in a way that’s actionable.”
Critics have denounced body mass index report cards as a terrible way to evaluate students’ weights because, they say, body mass index relies on variables, such as average height and age, which often mischaracterize perfectly healthy individuals. (RELATED: NYC School Admins To Parents: Your Children Are Disgustingly Fat)
Parents of public school students in the Five Boroughs currently receive fat-shaming report cards with weight percentiles and body mass index numbers. (Until last year, the report cards labeled children as “underweight,” “healthy weight,” “overweight” or “obese” based on the index numbers.)
The letters informing parents that their children are overweight advise the parents to seek immediate help from health professionals.
New York City school officials continue to defend the practice.
The goal of the report cards aim is “to spark conversations about eating habits and levels of physical activity needed for good health” city education department spokeswoman Toya Holness said in a statement, according to the Mail.
Body mass index screenings in schools first appeared in Arkansas in 2003. Since then, 19 states have instituted the practice in various ways.
Parents frequently complain that the measurements and subsequent letters home are based on junk science.
For example, officials from the Collier County Health Department on Florida’s Gulf Coast briefly gained notoriety for sending home a fat-shaming letter to the mother of a girl named Lily.
At the time, Lily was 5’5″ tall and weighed in at 124 pounds. She was the tallest girl in her class. (RELATED: Florida School Sends Letter Home Calling This Girl Fat)