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SHAPE Act not the answer
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Our nation, and particularly our region, is home to some of the fattest people in the world. The problem is as much social as anything, especially in the south where deep fried, rich foods are as much a part of our culture as our accents. We have children at home playing video games and watching television for four or more hours a day, and schools have been limited more and more by stricter testing standards so physical education has been limited or, in some cases, all together suspended.

But can and should schools be held responsible for the body mass index of its students?

Schools should offer physical education, not at the expense of other programs like art and music (measures that have been taken in other states). It should be taught so that students have an outlet for physical activity.

P.E. has been thrown out of schools or limited during the schools' timetables along with recess and other activity times so schools can focus on passing tests for the all-important AYP - but that's not really a choice. Schools have to because they've been painted into a corner by federal law - better known as No Child Left Behind.

The newest piece of legislation making its way through the Georgia General Assembly proposes that schools be graded on the aggregated body mass index of its students. Students will be tested twice a year, according to the proposed bill, and each school will be assigned a designation as either a healthy school or unhealthy school.

So now not only do we have unattainable goals set for schools in regards to academic success, but we are proposing another mandate, which by the way is not going to be funded separately, for schools to pass in order to receive a particular status from the state.

How would this program even work? The bill, like most, is at best vague about the structure of the program and exactly what constitutes a healthy school and what happens to a school that is deemed unhealthy.

The focus should be on schools teaching nutrition and proper physical fitness, not on whether the schools can get every student into a BMI range that the state department sees as healthy. What happens to those students who fall in the overweight range? Are they then pulled out of class to work on losing weight so that the school can pass its healthiness test?

The focus can't just be in the schools and the burden can't be put on the shoulders of school administrators. There has to be some level of education in the community as to what a healthy lifestyle is and how to maintain that lifestyle. It matters not what the school does while the child is present during the day if all he does is go home plop down in front of the television and eat junk food and play video games

The bill also includes a provision to establish a position within the Department of Education to coordinate activities relating to physical education. According to the bill that person will, "collect and disseminate to local school systems best practices in the areas of student health and physical education."

A one person department in charge of more than 150 school districts? Can that be effective?

The legislation that eliminates sodas and other junk food from cafeteria menus and on site vending machines is a great practice and may, along the way, teach students how to make healthier food choices. Our new school regulations should stay in that accord. Educating students on healthier lifestyles, such as healthier food choices and proper fitness, to obtain and maintain a healthy life.

Mandates should be about truly making the student healthier not schools more over burdened.

Robby Byrd is the editor of The Covington News. He can be reached at rbyrd@covnews.