Does school district have role in student weight loss?

info@islandpacket.comSeptember 24, 2013 

When did educators become responsible for our children's weight?

That question leaps to mind when we read that the Beaufort County School District is considering paying for 20 students to get help for their weight problems at MindStream Academy in Bluffton.

Certainly, schools can be held responsible for what food children have access to while they are at school. And opportunities for exercise during the school day are welcome. Schools also offer classes that include healthful nutrition and diet information.

But the proposed MindStream program would go beyond this. Superintendent Jeffrey Moss is discussing sending 20 students to a Saturday program at the academy for about 12 weeks. The students would get a condensed version of the program MindStream offers its boarders.

Sarah Stone, the academy's director of programs, said classes would include fitness activities and work with a trainer, meal planning, and nutrition and dietary components.

The cost to the district would be about $7,000 for the program. Boarding students pay $28,500 for a four-month semester.

Moss hasn't said how the Beaufort County students would be picked. The next stop for this idea is the school board's Curriculum Committee.

This wouldn't be the first MindStream collaboration with a school district. The academy helped students from Independence, Mo., during the 2012-2013 school year. The school district and parents paid about half the tuition, while donations paid the other half. The 15 students who traveled here collectively lost more than 750 pounds during the first semester, according to news reports.

That's impressive, but a key question about a stay-at-home program comes to mind: Where do the local students' families fit into this?

Parents of the Missouri students attending MindStream Academy met monthly in Independence with MindStream's clinical director to learn how to help their children when they returned, according to news reports. What would be planned for families here?

And would a once-a-week program for local students, even though cheaper, achieve comparable results?

In January, CBS News asked MindStream founder Ray Travaglione why MindStream's lessons couldn't be taught closer to home, without a $28,000-a-semester price tag. Travaglione's answer: "Without an immersive program, where you actually have an opportunity to begin to change the way a young person thinks, it would just be putting a Band-Aid on it. ... If they go home and they don't get the support that they need, they should be smart enough with what they've learned here and realize how hard it was for them to get to this really good place, that they never want to go back again."

So how would MindStream accomplish that with a once-a-week program?

School district officials should be very careful about getting involved in this arena and must tell us why this is the district's -- and taxpayers' -- responsibility even if it comes at a relatively low price.

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