SHAPE Act not the an­swer

The Covington News - - Opinion - Robby Byrd

Our na­tion, and par­tic­u­larly our re­gion, is home to some of the fat­test peo­ple in the world. The prob­lem is as much so­cial as any­thing, es­pe­cially in the south where deep fried, rich foods are as much a part of our cul­ture as our ac­cents. We have chil­dren at home play­ing video games and watch­ing television for four or more hours a day, and schools have been lim­ited more and more by stricter test­ing stan­dards so phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion has been lim­ited or, in some cases, all to­gether sus­pended.

But can and should schools be held re­spon­si­ble for the body mass in­dex of its stu­dents?

Schools should of­fer phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion, not at the ex­pense of other pro­grams like art and mu­sic (mea­sures that have been taken in other states). It should be taught so that stu­dents have an out­let for phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity.

P.E. has been thrown out of schools or lim­ited dur­ing the schools’ timeta­bles along with re­cess and other ac­tiv­ity times so schools can fo­cus on pass­ing tests for the all-im­por­tant AYP — but that’s not re­ally a choice. Schools have to be­cause they’ve been painted into a cor­ner by fed­eral law — bet­ter known as No Child Left Be­hind.

The new­est piece of leg­isla- tion mak­ing its way through the Ge­or­gia Gen­eral As­sem­bly pro­poses that schools be graded on the ag­gre­gated body mass in­dex of its stu­dents. Stu­dents will be tested twice a year, ac­cord­ing to the pro­posed bill, and each school will be as­signed a des­ig­na­tion as ei­ther a healthy school or un­healthy school.

So now not only do we have unattain­able goals set for schools in re­gards to aca­demic suc­cess, but we are propos­ing an­other man­date, which by the way is not go­ing to be funded sep­a­rately, for schools to pass in or­der to re­ceive a par­tic­u­lar sta­tus from the state.

How would this pro­gram even work? The bill, like most, is at best vague about the struc­ture of the pro­gram and ex­actly what con­sti­tutes a healthy school and what hap­pens to a school that is deemed un­healthy.

The fo­cus should be on schools teach­ing nu­tri­tion and proper phys­i­cal fit­ness, not on whether the schools can get ev­ery stu­dent into a BMI range that the state de­part­ment sees as healthy. What hap­pens to those stu­dents who fall in the over­weight range? Are they then pulled out of class to work on los­ing weight so that the school can pass its health­i­ness test?

The fo­cus can’t just be in the schools and the bur­den can’t be put on the shoul­ders of school ad­min­is­tra­tors. There has to be some level of ed­u­ca­tion in the com­mu­nity as to what a healthy lifestyle is and how to main­tain that lifestyle. It mat­ters not what the school does while the child is present dur­ing the day if all he does is go home plop down in front of the television and eat junk food and play video games

The bill also in­cludes a pro­vi­sion to es­tab­lish a po­si­tion within the De­part­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion to co­or­di­nate ac­tiv­i­ties re­lat­ing to phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion. Ac­cord­ing to the bill that per­son will, “col­lect and dis­sem­i­nate to lo­cal school sys­tems best prac­tices in the ar­eas of stu­dent health and phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion.”

A one per­son de­part­ment in charge of more than 150 school dis­tricts? Can that be ef­fec­tive?

The leg­is­la­tion that elim­i­nates so­das and other junk food from cafe­te­ria menus and on site vend­ing ma­chines is a great prac­tice and may, along the way, teach stu­dents how to make health­ier food choices. Our new school reg­u­la­tions should stay in that ac­cord. Ed­u­cat­ing stu­dents on health­ier life­styles, such as health­ier food choices and proper fit­ness, to ob­tain and main­tain a healthy life.

Man­dates should be about truly mak­ing the stu­dent health­ier not schools more over bur­dened.

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