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Mass. Stops Sending 'Fat Letters' On Student Weight

NORTH ANDOVER (CBS) - Cam Watson is an active 10-year-old kid who became the face of Massachusetts' so called "fat letters."

That's because the 97 pound North Andover student who plays football and has a collection of wrestling trophies got a letter home from school indicating that he is "obese."

The state had mandated that schools notify parents if their children's Body Mass Index or BMI indicated they are overweight. But that has now changed in large part because of Cam and his mother, Tracy Watson.

"I think it just hits home, that it's very common sense. Why are we doing this?," Watson said. "These letters were doing more harm than good to kids out there."

The Watson's took their complaint to Beacon Hill and found a lot of other parents were also disturbed by the obesity letters. Citing concerns about bullying and self esteem, they urged the state to stp the letters.

Wednesday, the Massachusetts Public Health Council listened to their concerns and voted 10-1 to eliminate the practice.

Harold Cox cast the only 'no' vote on the Council. He says they will have to find new ways to educate parents about healthy lifestyles, diet and exercise.

"Just because you don't like the information that you're getting doesn't mean you shouldn't get the information," Cox said. "Obesity is not going away. A third of our children in our state have some weight problem."

The data on height and weight will still be collected from students in 1st, 4th, 7th and 10th grades, but will only be used by state health officials for study.

Watson agrees obesity is an important issue, but she feels proud that she and her son were able to make a difference. And Cam says he learned another lesson from watching how the letters impacted his classmates.

"I learned that words can hurt people more than actions," he said.


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