Florida athlete called overweight by county health department

Posted at 10:10 AM, Oct 09, 2013
and last updated 2013-10-09 12:10:05-04

COLLIER COUNTY, Fla. — A young Florida athlete gets a startling letter from the County Health Department. Her parents are outraged and say the system that’s intended to protect the well-being of children is now harming kids who may be struggling with their weight.

Meet 6th grader Lily Grasso. At 5′ 3″ and 127 pounds, the 11-year-old is a star volleyball player.

“Lily is athletic, she’s tall, plays volleyball six days a week for two different teams, she’s not overweight,” said Kristen Grasso, Lily’s mother.

But when school started last month, Lily brought home a letter from the Collier County Health Department, giving her parents the impression that she was being called overweight.

“Don’t send the letter home with the kids. How hard is it to put these letters in the mail?” Kristen Grasso said.

Florida state law requires students to get health screenings at the start of the school year. In Lily’s letter, her weight was labeled “at risk.”

“It says at risk and then it tells you to go to their website, and when you do that, the at risk then turns to Lily is overweight, with chance of being obese,” Kristen Grasso explained.

Her parents are concerned about how the 11-year-old would respond.

“We found that all over the country, they call it the fat letter and kids receive the fat letter, and we thought it was something she should at least know about,” said Lily’s father Michael Grasso. “She doesn’t want to be bullied, she doesn’t want to feel like the school may bully her.”

The Collier County Health Department says it’s part of a screening – one that urges parents to take their kids to their doctors and follow up – while noting the body mass index could be off for kids that are athletes.

“We always want parents to realize that it says so in the letter that it’s only a screening tool,” stated Deb Millsap for the Collier County Health Department.

Millsap says their intention is to never single out a child.

But the Grassos wonder, why even conduct a test that has the chance of being wrong when it could potentially damage a child’s self-esteem?

“This letter can do no good. If a kid is overweight, they know they’re overweight,” said Kristen Grasso.

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