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L.I. School District Fighting Childhood Obesity With Electronic Devices

January 25, 2012

All righty then, after all that’s been going on with CHOA, I thought I was done with ranting. I guess not, not after reading about this school on Long Island that wants kids to wear monitoring bracelets 24/7.

These monitoring bracelets can count heartbeats, detect movement, and track students’ sleeping habits. I’m sorry, but this is outrageous!! Since when is it the business of the school to know a child’s heartbeat? Since when is it the business of the school to know when a child is moving when not at school? And since when is it the school’s business to know how much sleep a child is getting?

The Bay Shore school district has ordered 10 electronic monitoring devices to keep track of students’ physical activity.

The Polar Active monitors are wristwatch-like devices that can count heartbeats, detect movement and track students’ sleeping habits.

The information collected from the devices then gets transmitted to a password-protected website that students and teachers can access.

The school’s athletic director said the devices are a way to fight the childhood obesity epidemic. Similar monitors are already being used in the South Orange, New Jersey school district.

Excuse me? Counting heartbeats, detecting movement, and tracking sleeping habits is going to end “childhood obesity” exactly how? While getting adequate sleep is a good thing, that alone isn’t going to end childhood obesity. Monitoring how much kids move and increasing that amount isn’t going to end childhood obesity either (it might make kids more fit, but it probably won’t make them thin).

This is information that is none of the schools’ business — they have enough work to do with setting up class plans, teaching the subjects, grading papers, etc. Now the school district wants to add another job to their already over-worked and underpaid teaching staff? Pardon me if I’m not impressed.

Sounds like they’re copy-catting another school district. Wonder if they bothered to see how successful those bracelets were for the other school? I’m betting not, and I’m betting that the South Orange school isn’t advertising how “successful” those bracelets have been at making fat kids thin either.

But some parents and privacy advocates are not on board.

The American Civil Liberties Union is calling it an intrusive measurement — and some parents said this program should be voluntary.

The devices cost $90 each and are set to make their debut this Spring in the Bay Shore school district.

Yeah, if I were a parent, I wouldn’t be on board with this plan either, and intrusive is the least of the expletives I would use for it. “Some parents said this program should be voluntary” makes me think the school district is making participation mandatory. Now, if they only have 10 of those bracelets, how are they deciding who has to wear them? Are they going rotate the bracelets among the student body until all the students have worn them?

Or are they going to pick out just the fat kids and make those kids wear the bracelets? Talk about discrimination. Plus, they are setting them up for stigmatization and bullying — yeah, I don’t think so. I have a feeling that if they implement this policy, they are going to have some lawsuits on their hands.

I realize that $900 is a drop in the bucket when it comes to school budgets, but can they really afford to flush that money down the toilet, especially in an economy where houses are worth less, therefore are taxed less, therefore school districts get less money? If they’re spending money on those bracelets, where did they cut money so they could afford them? What program is making do with less money so they can try an experiment to end an epidemic that doesn’t exist?

11 Comments leave one →
  1. January 25, 2012 10:03 am

    Holy crap. That is so creepy. And, yeah, I’m sure they’re going to use these bracelets to help all of the children in Long Island to be healthy.

    As if.


  2. Fab@54 permalink
    January 25, 2012 10:29 am

    I’m just about speechless….. WTF?? Ok, let’s play Fat Devil’s advocate here for a second: how do they know what /when /how much a child is eating while sitting / walking around the house, or even playing Wii?? I mean what the hell is it they are trying to determine??

    What next? Obesity Shock Collars?!! You know, jolt those freakin fat kids into moving more. Stop them from sitting motionless to watch TV or play video games….

    Again I say, WTF??

  3. January 25, 2012 10:55 am

    At different times in history, scarlet “A”s and pink triangles and stars of David, sewn on clothing (aka as patches) were intended to instill shame and loathing (and to warn others) about the dangers of Otherness; the newest forms of symbolic violence are represented by the latest technologies, and here in the “land of the free” these arm bands, or bracelets, communicate little to nothing about calories/activity/fitness/health–but are purely for purposes of symbolic violence: they are ALL about the social construction of domination and control, the insidious reproduction and maintenance of social status categories which turn us against one another as human beings (transforming us into commodities, or things), and, not coincidentally, symbolic violence also contributes to physical violence against human bodies (against self and others). Yes, in the name of “health promotion.”

    • January 25, 2012 11:01 am

      What an excellent comment. And what amazes me is that, even assuming these bracelets work as they claim they do, what about Calories In??? I mean, what next, will they install mouth cameras in fat kids to monitor every bite?


    • Catgal permalink
      January 26, 2012 8:45 am

      You took the words right out of my mouth. I was going to suggest that the next step may be to wear a Scarlet F on their clothing. And the fact that they are only buying 10 bracelets worries me. You know that they are going to go right onto the wrists of those who are considered fat just by looking at them. Bayshore is one of the more economically depressed areas of Long Island, not the poorest by any means, but it’s not the Gold Coast, or the Hamptons either.

  4. January 25, 2012 11:33 am

    see guys i keep saying we are edging closer and closer to gattica, where you have to wear a heart monitor and exercise daily for 1 hour or you don’t get your federal rights.

  5. January 25, 2012 2:13 pm

    Will they also install a proximity alarm in those bracelets that goes off if a kid dares to leave an environment where they are moving before a set time? Alarm, alarm, exercise time has not been completed yet. Fugitive non-mover! Get the police!


    Intrusive? SOME parents? I suspect brainwashing.

  6. Catgal permalink
    January 26, 2012 8:49 am

    Here is the information to contact the Bayshore Board of Education. Have at it!

  7. amy permalink
    January 29, 2012 7:22 am

    What is really concerning is the fact that these bracelets are gonna take over the role of parents who all too often show their indifference toward their own children. They simply don’t realize that children need to interact and cooperate with others in order to develop healthy relationships later in life. If this is neglected there really is the threat that children will suffer from some emotional problems or even obesity. That’s why I visited as many baby-centers in Toronto as possible when my children were born. I discovered a number of funny ways to build a strong relationship and I always try to spend as much of my free time as possible with them to avoid similar problems in their adolescence. And I am sure there’s no such electronic device that could replace this kind of relationship.

    • Mulberry permalink
      January 29, 2012 9:54 am

      Amy, I hope I’m misreading you here, but you seem to be saying fatness has something to do with parental neglect. The above article talks about these bracelets being used on fat children to monitor their sleep, heart rate and exercise habits. It doesn’t say anything about relationships with parents or other children. Can you clarify?

    • vesta44 permalink
      January 29, 2012 10:03 am

      But not all parents of fat kids are indifferent toward their kids – they spend time with them, cook them decent meals, see that they get enough sleep, discipline them, etc. And like I said, since when is it the business of the school to check on any of that? If they think a child is being neglected or abused, they are mandated reporters – report it to Social Services or whoever takes care of that kind of thing in their state. It’s not up to the school to see that kids get enough sleep, get enough exercise when they aren’t at school, nor is any of the school’s business what the kids’ heartrates are. It’s the place of the school to be parents – schools are to educate our children, not take over for us in raising them.

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