WALTON COUNTY, Ga. -- Now that school has started again, most parents are worried about getting their kids up in time for the bus in the mornings or possibly choosing what sort of after school extracurricular activities they should sign their kids up for.
Katie Dickens thought she would be one of those parents, but instead of being worried about the typical things like meetings with teachers and getting her 5-year-old daughter ready for kindergarten, she had to worry about her daughter’s weight according to the school.
According to Dickens, she received a letter from her daughter's soon-to-be elementary school in Walton County stating that her daughter needed further evaluation after she did not fall within the required range for her weight.
The letter referred to the results of Dickens’ daughter’s Form 3300 which has four categories: vision, hearing, dental and nutrition. Depending on what is filled out on the form, your child may or may not be subject to further evaluation.
Form 3300 is required to be filled out by all parents who are enrolling their children in the Georgia Public School System for the very first time.
The school said it required students to be between the 5 and 85 percentiles as far as BMI, which is marked in the nutrition category, and her daughter was in the 94 percentile.
After Dickens' husband received the letter in the mail, he immediately called his wife and asked, "So, is the school calling our kid fat?"
The letter required Dickens to bring her daughter to her pediatrician for further evaluation for her nutrition and must provide proof to the school that she did so.
"I understand hearing and vision because that affects their ability to be educated the proper way,” Dickens said.
According to Dickens, the school’s role is to take care of the children at the highest level when it comes to education, not their weight.
“Her weight, even if she had all black teeth or no teeth, should have no bearing on whether or not she is smart enough or is to be educated. Yeah, I don’t need her to have a stigma already in the fact that she’s already nervous about starting school. It’s like a whole new world, you know that, we’ve all been to kindergarten. You’re scared to death but you’re excited at the same time. The last thing I need is for my child to be worried about what she weighs at five years old.”
“Not to mention, she is the skinniest child and is just fine. And is actually above the criteria for her height.”
Dickens had checked to see who signed the letter and noticed it was from the school’s secretary. She believes that the secretary had no idea of what she was sending and that the school has shown poor leadership for an issue like this.
“One of the biggest things that you hear about in the news today is body shaming and you’re body shaming a child you’ve never even met? What if my child did know about this at age five? I just feel strongly that there is a line that the government should not cross when it comes to my personal family life and letters telling my child or any child is overweight just because they don't fit in the government's box of what weight should be is incredibly over the line.”
In response to the letter, the Walton County School District told 11Alive's Joe Henke that the letter sent home follows the recent recommendations the state's Department of Public Health made earlier this year. However, the school acknowledged that after the mother raised concerns, they would review the process:
"In an effort to connect parents with additional resources, as needed, the Walton County School District has followed the State's recommendation to follow up with those recommended for further evaluation on the required Form 3300 with a letter and state-provided list of resources," the district said in a statement. "We are currently reviewing our procedures to see how we can best serve our students and connect them with additional resources."