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By Jim Cummins
Correspondent
Law would notify parents of kids’ body mass index

NBC News
Updated: 7:34 p.m. ET Jan. 31, 2005

AUSTIN, Texas - Experts say more than a third of Texas schoolchildren are overweight or at risk for obesity. That figure alarms Leticia Van dePutte, a state senator from San Antonio, who is also a practicing pharmacist.

"[It amazes me] to see the number of 8- and 9-year-olds that are coming into the pharmacy to get the insulin, or 12-year-olds that take more blood pressure medicine than my grandmother," says Van dePutte.

So Van dePutte is proposing a state law requiring schools to weigh students, compute their body mass index, and send that information home on their report cards.

A similar law was implemented in Arkansas last year, where 38 percent of the students were found to be overweight. But unlike the plan proposed in Texas, Arkansas sent that information directly to parents in a health report, not in students' report cards.


Some parents in Texas are outraged.

"They don't need to tell us that to realize your kid is overweight," says parent Rosa Medellian.

Dr. Stephanie Setliff, who treats kids with eating disorders at the Children's Medical Center in Dallas, also believes the proposal is a bad idea.

"We know that eating disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa can be triggered by one comment made from a peer or a coach," says Setliff.

The state's largest teacher group also opposes the bill, saying teachers should just teach.

"The school has a place to provide nutritional food and nutritional information in health class, but they're not doctors," says Eric Allen with the Association of Texas Professional Educators.

But Van dePutte says many Texas kids don't have health insurance and rarely see a doctor. She's hoping health reports from school will motivate their parents to do something.

"When parents see something written about their child's health status, they will intervene in the same way they do when they get that report card on the academic side," she says.

As another Texas official puts it, report cards on obesity in children "cant' wait, because their lives are literally at stake."