Kevin Fischer is a veteran broadcaster, the recipient of over 150 major journalism awards from the Milwaukee Press Club, the Wisconsin Associated Press, the Northwest Broadcast News Association, the Wisconsin Bar Association, and others. He has been seen and heard on Milwaukee TV and radio stations for over three decades. A longtime aide to state Senate Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature, Kevin can be seen offering his views on the news on the public affairs program, "InterCHANGE," on Milwaukee Public Television Channel 10, and heard filling in on Newstalk 1130 WISN. He lives with his wife, Jennifer, and their lovely baby daughter, Kyla Audrey, in Franklin.
This is an awful bill that could become law in Georgia.
The Georgia Legislature wants to mandate thats chools weigh and measure elementary school kids twice a year. Data would be kept on a website comparing the figures from all schools.
This is none of the schools' business. It is a parental responsibility.
As I mentioned on WISN yesterday, lawmakers watch and review legislation in other states for ideas, meaning some Wisconsin legislator could pick up on this one. I hope not.
From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
Senate wants kids on scales
State lawmakers vote to combat childhood obesity by making schools track students' body mass index.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 03/01/08
Georgia's public elementary school students would hop on the scales twice a year for weigh-ins as part of an effort to curb childhood obesity, under a bill that passed the Senate on Friday.
The legislation requires schools to track kids' body mass index, a combination of height and weight used to determine whether the child is at a healthy weight. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Joseph Carter (R-Tifton), would mandate that schools post the aggregate BMI information on their school system Web sites and follow state regulations on offering physical education classes.
Carter said more than one in three kids in Georgia is overweight and the majority of schools are not complying with statewide physical education guidelines. "The presence of childhood obesity is staggering," he said.
Carter said the fitness information would be made available just as academic test scores are, so parents could check out how they measure up to other area schools. Children would be weighed in a confidential office setting by their physical education teacher, and their personal information would not become public, he said. The bill stops short of requiring schools to automatically provide their child's data to parents. Instead the information would be available upon request.
"Sally, step into the office, step up on the scale —- that's about as invasive as it gets," Carter said.
In Arkansas, the first state to begin measuring kids' BMIs at school, skyrocketing childhood obesity rates have leveled off since 2003. The measure was part of a statewide plan, including removing soda machines and changing school lunch menus, put together by Gov. Mike Huckabee, who fought his own very public battle with the bulge.
Senators passed the bill 37 to 13 after a first genial —- and then heated —- debate.
One senator jokingly placed a glazed doughnut on the podium as Carter spoke. Sen. Jeff Mullis (R-Chickamauga) strolled up to take a bite, as his fellow lawmakers guffawed from their seats.
A few moments later, a more serious Sen. Preston Smith (R-Rome) said "the long arm of the government" should stop reaching into people's private lives. He called the measure another "nanny bill" that goes too far.
Smith said that schools will pressure children to lose weight and stigmatize them, mimicking what he worried school officials would say: "Come on, pick it up, fat kid, we're not going to get money if you don't!"
As he left the podium, refusing to engage in a debate, Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford), who supports the bill, shouted "chicken!" at him.
The bill is another attempt to address childhood obesity with legislation.
Carter made a proposal during the 2006 session, calling for 150 minutes per week of "moderate to vigorous" physical activity for kindergarten through fifth grade, and 225 minutes per week for sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders. That bill failed.
And in 2005, a bipartisan bill in the House tried unsuccessfully to place a student's body mass index, an indication of obesity, on report cards.
Under the new bill, if school districts don't comply with the new rules, they'd be labeled as "unhealthy school zones" on a state Web site that measures school performance.
The plan has earned mixed reviews from moms and dads.
Todd Slutzky, an associate creative director and father of a 3-year-old, said he sees no problem with schools tracking weight.
"It's not like listing children's IQs or parents' incomes," he said. He said a little accountability wouldn't be the worst thing in the world.
"Sometimes," he said, "parents need to be shamed."
Kristen Speckhals, a mother of two from Atlanta, called the bill "totally ridiculous."
"I wish they would stick to teaching history and science and math," she said. "I'm all for health and fitness, but that's a parent's job."
In Arkansas, children are turned around backward before stepping onto the scale so they can't see their own weight, said Debra Pate, a communications specialist for the that state's program.
"By far, it's been accepted by parents and has had no ill effect on children," she said.
Georgia's elementary school children currently take 90 hours of physical education each year, which rounds out to roughly 30 minutes a day, said Dana Tofig, the spokesman for the Georgia Department of Education.
Tofig said DOE has been working with Carter on the bill and supports its intent.
The logistics of collecting and cataloging the data, however, could prove tricky.
"While the intent is good, we do not want to saddle our schools and teachers with more mandates," he said.
The bill now goes to the House.
Staff writer Ken Sugiura contributed to this article.
A LOOK AT THE PROBLEM
> 34 percent of U.S. children ages 6-19 are overweight.
> 17 percent are considered obese.
> For black teenagers, 24 percent of girls and almost 19 percent of boys are obese.
> Almost 20 percent of Mexican-American teenage girls and 15 percent of boys are obese.
> Poverty is a key factor: About 20 percent of impoverished kids are obese.
> Possible consequences: hypertension, breathing disorders, sleep problems, bone and joint complications; greater risk of later developing heart disease and some forms of cancer.
> Up to 45 percent of new diabetes diagnoses in children and adolescents are weight-related Type 2 diabetes.
Source: National Center for Health Statistics, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention