At 4-foot-1 and 66 pounds, nine-year-old Gwendolyn Williams is considered “overweight” by the New York City Department of Education. 

School officials handed Williams a “fitnessgram” issued by the department.  She was told not to open the letter, but couldn’t resist and read it before handing it over to her mother.

“I was upset and I thought it was a mistake,” Williams said. “I looked closely at it and it wasn’t a mistake, they were actually calling me overweight.”

Gwendolyn’s mom, Laura Bruji Williams, is worried the notices, citing body mass index, will leave children confused about body and health issues.  She was horrified to learn that her daughter was pulling at her skin, thinking she was overweight. “I just think that maybe calculating their BMI in this way isn’t necessarily accurate,” she said. “I’ve talked to nutritionists and fitness experts and they said that BMI is not necessarily the best way to measure health.”

The Department of Education is defending the Fitnessgrams as a way to help students develop healthier eating habits. “Fitnessgram notices are a longstanding tool that help families stay aware of weight and fitness as one part of an overall approach to ensuring their child’s health,” a representative said.