Teachers In Public Schools Are Being Asked To Dob In Overweight Students
Is it a teacher’s role to report students who are overweight? According to a new education scheme, yes it is!
The bold move from the NSW Education Department will see all state public school staff undergo training to allow them to dob in overweight kids to welfare workers. It’s an initiative that classifies obesity as a ‘child protection issue’ and one that will require mandatory reporting by teachers and staff.
“With regard to obesity, this would only be in very extreme circumstances,’’ says an Education Department spokesperson. “Obesity is considered a child protection issue when it is impacting on the child’s wellbeing and welfare to a significant degree, and it is having a harmful effect on normal physical, social and emotional functioning, and parents/carers are unwilling or unable to address these concerns.’’
The controversial movement comes after the NSW Health Department announced that one in five NSW school students is overweight or obese and they now get more than one third of their daily kilojoules from junk food.
While many agree with the alarming statistics, others have been left questioning whether it’s the teacher’s responsibility to monitor food intake of kids. Australian Medical Association president Michael Gannon acknowledged that while there are severe heath risks associated with obesity, the new education strategy may be overstepping the mark.
“We need to tread very, very carefully so we are not interfering too far in the right of parents to decide what’s right for their children. I think we need to find that balance before asserting that teachers, headmasters and schools should be giving parents advice on how to look after their children.’’
Obesity is most definitely on the rise in Australia and our children are larger than they’ve ever been. Here are some statistics from NSW Health Department:
Statistics on Childhood obesity in Australia
One in four (25 per cent) of Aussie kids are considered overweight or obese.
The number of obese children have almost tripled since 1985.
It’s predicted that 65 per cent of young Australians will be overweight or obese by 2020.
About 80 per cent of obese adolescents will become obese adults.
Are these facts alarming? Absolutely! Is it a school’s responsibility to ensure their student’s are eating well? I say yes and no.
As an educator myself I understand the demand placed on teachers with the growing list of expectations from both parents and the Education Department. Never before have teachers been expected to wear so many hats- educators, nurses, counsellors and now we can add dietitians to the list.
Obesity in children is concerning because of many reasons-early onset diabetes, heart disease and the strong probability that these children will show up to be overweight adolescents and in turn adults. So yes, I do believe teacher’s have a responsibility to keep their students safe (ie. mandatory reporting of child abuse) and to monitor their mental and physical health.
Already in schools we’ve seen the implementation of healthy eating policies and the policing of school lunch boxes in class. Students are encouraged to bring healthy options to school and are often reprimanded if their lunch boxes contain junk food.
School canteens have a variety of healthier options such as salad rolls and fruit rather than the traditional fare we grew up with which consisted mainly of pies and sausages rolls. All these initiatives are ways in which schools are being pro-active to ensure the health of their students.
In saying this, I firmly believe that if a child is morbidly obese and looks to be getting heavier with each passing year the teacher has a responsibility to bring it up with the parents. They must tread very carefully though as the issue of diet is one that the whole family most likely faces.
An educator must be trained to discuss delicate issues such as nutrition and exercise without offending or being judgemental. The student must also be made to feel comfortable and not singled out. And I’m wondering how a child can be dobbed in because they’re ‘fat’ without having their self esteem and confidence take a hit.
It’s a super complex issue and one that needs to be addressed from many angles. Why is the child over eating? Does the whole family eat unhealthy foods often? Does the child do any physical activity? Are there any emotional issues that must be addressed first? Are there financial problems at home?
So while I wholeheartedly agree teachers have a responsibility to keep their students safe and monitor their emotional and physical wellbeing I also believe the initiative needs to work in conjunction with the parents. As much as a teacher can monitor what my child eats at school, ultimately I as the parent am the one in charge of what I buy and ultimately what I feed my child.