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April 14, 2007

In Obesity Wars, A New Backlash
A Western town pushed school kids to eat right and exercise more. Did it go too far? 'Mr. Coca, do you think I'm fat?'

Anne Marie Chaker:

Brittany Burns, 12 years old, has always been on the heavy side. Last year in fifth grade, neighborhood kids started picking on her at the bus stop, calling her "fatty" and "chubby wubby." Then someone else piled on: Brittany's school.

In a letter dated Oct. 2, 2006, the Campbell County School District No. 1 invited "select students" to take part in a fitness and nutrition program set up for some of the district's most overweight kids. At 5 feet 2 inches tall and 179 pounds, Brittany qualified.

Receiving the letter was "embarrassing," Brittany says. Her mother, Mindi Story, a clerk at an Albertsons supermarket, says she seethed "pure anger" because, she argues, her daughter's weight shouldn't be the school's concern: "I send her to school to learn math and reading."

Spurred by a local doctor and an enthusiastic school board, Gillette has banned soda and second helpings on hot meals. This year, it included students' body-mass index -- a number that measures weight adjusted for height -- on report cards, and started recommending students like Brittany for after-school fitness programs. It even offers teachers the chance to earn bonuses based on their fitness.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at April 14, 2007 10:00 AM
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