Fat Fight May Be Waged at School

DALLAS, Jan. 26, 2005 — -- A Texas lawmaker has proposed legislation that would require the state's public schools to weigh students and record their body mass index on report cards that are sent home to parents.

The measure has proven controversial, but Dallas resident Tamatha Hamblen wishes the program had been in effect years ago, when her daughter, Amber, first attended school. Amber is now 12 years old, 100 pounds overweight and on the verge of developing type 2 diabetes.

"She probably wouldn't have gained so much weight if I had known how to take care of it," said Hamblen.

State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, says she proposed the law in response to public health statistics that classify more than a third of school-age children in Texas as obese or overweight.

"While it seems tough, we are trying to save kids' lives," she said. "This generation of students will predecease their parents because of their health status."

The proposal "is one other way to get the message out to parents about it, so they can act on that information and make some changes," said Dr. Sarah Blomstein, a pediatric obesity specialist.

Texas is not the first state to consider school obesity reports. Arkansas began weighing public school students in 2003 and found nearly half a million students -- 38 percent of the school population -- were classified as overweight. The state's governor says the program is showing results.

"I don't want the government being the grease police," said Gov. Mike Huckabee, a Republican. "But what we have to do is create and atmosphere in which healthier choices of life are rewarded."

Emotional Toll on Children

Nevertheless, many parents and educators are concerned about the emotional toll the proposed initiative may take on children.

"How many times have you taken a report card when you were a student and walked down the hallway and compared it with your friends'?" said Eric Allen, spokesman for the Association of Texas Professional Educators. "Now it is not just your grades --

it is, are you skinny or not?"

While the proposed legislation has a long way to go before it becomes law, many Texas cities are leading lists of the fattest communities in America. Some think an obesity report card may force families to finally face the problem.

ABC News' Mike Von Fremd filed this report for "World News Tonight."

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