Please stop weighing students in the classroom: call for educators to sign up for free body image resources
As school staff report a rise in children experiencing body image concerns, Butterfly is urging Australian primary schools to sign up for free teacher and student resources to foster positive body image in children.
- Butterfly reports receiving complaints following alarming classroom activities, such as students being weighed and having weight ranked in the classroom.
- 30% of Butterfly survey respondents, who had developed body and/or eating concerns during primary school, started developing body image concerns at the ages of 5 and 6.
- 43% of respondents developed an undiagnosed eating disorder between the ages of 5-12.
Funded by the Australian Federal Government’s Department of Health, every Australian primary school is being encouraged to register for free to Butterfly Body Bright, Australia’s only whole of primary school body image program. The announcement is timely given demand for school body image sessions for Years 5-6 from Butterfly, Australia’s national foundation for eating disorders and body image, has more than doubled over the last two years.
Dr. Stephanie Damiano, Manager of Butterfly Body Bright, said the nature of enquiries from schools has drastically changed of late, with school staff observing and reporting younger students (specifically Years 4-6) struggling with body image and problematic behaviours.
“More school staff are becoming aware of students being dissatisfied with their bodies and engaging in disordered eating behaviours in primary school and are seeking support to help the students and peers. We’re increasingly hearing reports of students expressing low self-esteem, not eating at school or who are uncomfortable doing so in front of others, students over-eating and under-eating and expressing a desire to count calories and diet from a young age” explained Dr. Damiano.
The announcement also comes after Butterfly recounted an alarming incident where a child’s teacher brought a set of scales into the classroom, weighed the students and then wrote their weights and names on the board, ranking the students from lightest to heaviest.
“Unfortunately, against the backdrop of increased body dissatisfaction in younger students, we continue to be aware of potentially harmful activities and conversations taking place in the classroom, which recently included an emphasis on children’s weight”
“Activities of this kind have the potential to increase a child’s risk of body dissatisfaction, preoccupation with body weight and shape, anxiety, restrictive diets, cycles of restriction and binge eating, and overall poor self-esteem, often lasting long into adulthood. There are many things that can be measured and weighed in a classroom, but a child’s body should not be one of them” said Dr. Damiano.
Butterfly Body Bright launched in July 2021 and is currently active in over 300 Australian Primary schools. Butterfly is strongly encouraging schools to access these evidence-informed and strength-based lesson plans, staff training and other strategies so that incidents like this one can be avoided and instead schools can be empowered to safely and positively help students to strengthen their relationship with their body, eating and physical activity.
“Body dissatisfaction is an ever-increasing issue that is not going away, and it’s imperative we take a whole of school approach. This program is just as much for the teachers as it is for the students and is an effective step towards schools preventing and reducing serious eating and body image issues from developing during late childhood and adolescence” said Dr. Damiano.
Early evaluation of Butterfly Body Bright has shown statistically significant improvement in student’s body image, body appreciation and confidence to deal with appearance-teasing, with 54% of students reporting an immediate improvement in their body image.
Furthermore, school staff also reported that the Body Bright Staff Training had an important effect on ways that staff can impact children’s body image, with 89% reporting an improvement in how they will role model positive body image in front of their students and 80% reporting they would stop speaking negatively about their body in front of their students.
“We hope to see a significant uptake in the program as it truly does offer schools all they need to take a strength-based approach to addressing this increasingly complex problem.”
“Every child deserves the right to feel bright in their body and seemingly harmless activities, like weighing students in the classroom, should not be a barrier to achieving this” noted Dr. Damiano.
To learn more about the Butterfly Body Bright program and how to register your school free of charge, head to: https://www.butterflybodybright.org.au/
Schools that sign up to Butterfly Body Bright before August 2023 will be given free access to all evidence informed body image resources for 3 years from registration.
Alex Cowen, Communications Manager – Butterfly
0497 008 716
Editor and producers note: Please include the following support line details in all media coverage of this story and refer to the Mindframe Media guidelines for safe reporting on eating disorders. Please include the following helpline message.
Help and Support
Anyone needing support with eating disorders or body image issues is encouraged to contact:
- Butterfly National Helpline on 1800 33 4673 (1800 ED HOPE) or firstname.lastname@example.org
- Eating Disorders Victoria Helpline on 1300 550 23
- For urgent support call Lifeline 13 11 14