Ronda Kaysen: It doesn't matter if your kid is black or white, rich or poor, a good student or a bad one. If she's obese, she's more likely to be bullied at school, no matter what.
A new study out of the University of Michigan found that obese children, regardless of all other factors, are bullied at school far more frequently than their thin classmates. And bullying has a serious impact: Obese kids who are bullied are at a greater risk for depression, anxiety and loneliness. Parents of obese kids rate bullying as their number-one health concern, above all other health risks that their kids face. The study looked at kids aged 6 to 9, which are prime bullying years.
This news just breaks my heart. It's hard enough for a family to struggle with obesity. Obese kids face a host of health problems and a greater possibility that they'll struggle with their weight as adults. Combine that with the news that the schoolyard is a source of shame and humiliation, and you've got yourself a recipe for a very difficult childhood.
Childhood obesity is a national crisis. Seventeen percent of kids were estimated to be obese from 2003 to 2006. Michelle Obama brought the issue front and center with her Let's Move campaign -- and I commend her for that. But, coupled with the discussion about how to keep our kids healthy, there needs to be a discussion about how not to shame kids for their weight.
Schools need to be vigilant in watching out for obese kids and making sure they're not the target of cruel taunts. As the Let's Move campaign educates kids and parents about healthy lifestyles, it should also teach children that their overweight classmates should not be the targets of ridicule or scorn. And parents need to think about how they talk to their kids about weight, so that children can have compassion for their classmates.
Being overweight is a medical issue that affects so many aspects of a kid's life. This study just shines light on the fact that, as much as our society is struggling with its weight, it also has a terrible stigma about people who are overweight -- and schools are no exception to that rule.