State senate approves childhood obesity bill
Students to be weighed at Georgia schools
ATLANTA — The state Senate on Friday passed legislation aimed at curbing childhood obesity in Georgia by weighing students twice a year in order to track the state’s population of overweight pupils.
The legislation sparked heated debate between supporters who said it’s needed to rein in the explosion of obese kids in Georgia and opponents who labeled it a “ nanny state” bill.
The measure passed 3713.
It mandates that schools obtain the body mass index of each student and provide that confidential data only to the child’s parents or guardian. Body mass index is a health indicator calculated using height and weight.
Once collected, the data would be provided in aggregate form to the state Board of Education and the averages would be posted on each school district’s Web site for the public to inspect.
Individual districts could then decide what — if any — steps to take in its physical education curriculum.
The movement to track overweight pupils began in Arkansas under thenGov. Mike Huckabee, now a Republican presidential candidate who has written and talked about his own dramatic weight loss.
A number of other states have adopted similar measures.
Supporters portrayed the measure as a small step toward tackling the rising problem of obesity in Georgia’s children. The bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Joseph Carter, R- Tifton, said that nearly one- in- three children in Georgia is obese or at risk of obesity.
“ In Georgia, the prevalence of childhood obesity is staggering,” Carter said.
But state Sen. Preston Smith, R- Rome, said there need to be some limits on where “ the long arm of government” can reach. Smith that if the bill became law, there would be a financial incentive to stigmatize overweight children.
He speculated that the end result could be a coach shouting at an overweight child “ come on, fat kid pick it up we’re not going to get money if you don’t.”
The bill now moves to the House.