Lisa Lawrence makes some important points in her March 12 letter to the editor regarding Georgia Senate Bill 474, The Student Health and Fitness Act. Our children are getting heavier and something needs to be done about it.
If current trends continue, society will pay a huge price in health care costs as the national epidemic of obesity leads to skyrocketing cases of Type II diabetes and heart disease. However, she and I disagree on how to solve this problem.
Lawrence thinks SB 474 is a great idea, and was offended by Barry Paschal's implication that kids are getting fat because their parents are allowing them to eat junk food and spend way too much time playing video games and watching TV.
Let's face facts. There is not enough time in a school day to offset poor lifestyle choices made at home that are directly causing most cases of childhood obesity. Parents are in the best position to turn this trend around by providing healthy food for their families and encouraging their kids to be more active. The government cannot mandate fitness any more than it can mandate that students study for tests or do their homework.
Our schools can and should play a role in educating students about health and fitness, but piling on additional PE time at the expense of enrichment classes is not going to magically fix the problem. Literally thousands of our local youth are benefiting from their involvement in fine arts and foreign language programs. Do we really want to do away with band and chorus, considering that numerous studies have shown a strong correlation between structured musical activities and academic success?
Before we rush into passing legislation that will wipe out enrichment classes, why don't we look at some other possibilities that are less drastic and might actually work?
In middle schools, for example:
Offer a fitness-based PE class every school day to any student who wants it or needs it.
Offer free after-school fitness classes on campus in weight-lifting, aerobics, running and other activities that can become part of an effective life-long fitness program.
Allow PE waivers for students who are enrolled in extracurricular athletic activities.
Allow PE waivers for students with BMI s (Body Mass Indexes) that fall within healthy ranges. This might actually encourage overweight kids to make lifestyle changes on their own if they know their enrichment programs are at stake.
Remove all soda and junk food vending machines from our schools. Leading scientists have called soda the "cigarettes" of obesity.
It's good that people are waking up to the epidemic of childhood obesity. Parents, please ask yourselves what changes you can make at home to help your children make better choices. Legislators and school officials, please be creative in finding approaches that can help, but don't take band away from my two active, healthy kids!
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