LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — City and Los Angeles Unified School District officials Thursday participated in a walk-to-school event encouraging physical fitness, one day after the state began sending home so-called “fat letters” to parents.
The letters provide information on how children met or failed to meet California Physical Fitness Test standards in terms of strength, flexibility and body-mass index.
Body composition scans suggest a large number of LAUSD students tested are at high risk for obesity-related problems, specifically 42.7 percent of fifth-graders, 39.1 percent of seventh-graders and 34.8 percent of ninth-graders.
Only 18.7 percent fulfilled all six fitness criteria, along with 21.4 percent of seventh-graders and 28.4 percent of ninth-graders, according to the California Department of Education.
Mayor Eric Garcetti and Superintendent John Deasy participated in the walk to school event at Calvert Elementary in Woodland Hills to encourage physical activity.
Garcetti said the recent letters are a wake up for parents.
“A friendly reminder that you can do something to extend the life of your kids, to make sure they have healthy lives, cut our medical costs,” he told KNX 1070.
“Physical education at our school district is hard to find. Our parents pay for a supplemental program; we pay to bring the YMCA onto our campus,” Calvert Elementary parent Tracy Bartley said.
About 20 states around the country are cracking down on childhood obesity with similar letters.
Opponents say the letters are insensitive and say school districts aren’t as adept as pediatricians when it comes to considering all factors that influence a child’s weight.
“Many young people are already the target of bullying at school and this additional focus on weight and size only adds fuel to the fire,” the National Eating Disorders Assn. said in a statement.
“We provide information to students and parents just like we do on math results. It gives you a sense of where you are and helps us set goals to keep a healthy and fit lifestyle,” Deasy countered.