California law requires that students in fifth, seventh, and ninth grade be tested for fitness, but Gov. Gavin Newsom wants to suspend that law for three years to study whether the tests may expose children to “body shaming, bullying and gender identity discrimination” and that Body Mass Index only measures for male and female.
Politico reported on Newsom’s plan:
During a three-year suspension of the test, the California Department of Education would consult with experts in fitness, adaptive physical education, gender identity and students with disabilities regarding “the purpose and administration of the physical performance test,” according to a proposal in budget-related bill language quietly released late last week.
H.D. Palmer, spokesperson for Newsom’s Department of Finance, said the move comes after complaints from parents that the test is discriminatory to students with disabilities and to non-binary students, since it includes a Body Mass Index screening that offers only male or female options.
Palmer also pointed to studies that show BMI screenings play a role in body shaming and bullying.
“Dispelling myths, breaking down stereotypes and improving school climate is one way California is working to keep all students safe and healthy, consistent with the Governor’s commitment to a California that respects all students,” Palmer said in the Politico report. “Given the body of research on the impacts of bullying on transgender and special education students, during this period of suspension, it’s important to take this pause and determine whether the current test can be modified or whether a new assessment should be developed.”
California has required the fitness test since 1996.
Politico cited one study from last year that showed that fitness tests “have little impact on student attitudes despite the debate over their effectiveness.”
The website that explains the testing reveals the idea behind the test is to help children be active and, in turn, more healthy:
The test has six parts that show a level of fitness that offer a degree of defense against diseases that come from inactivity. The Physical Fitness Test (PFT) is a comprehensive, health-related physical fitness battery of tests for students in California.
The State Board of Education designated the FITNESSGRAM® as the PFT for students in California public schools. The test has six parts that show a level of fitness that offer a degree of defense against diseases that come from inactivity. The test results can be used by students, teachers, and parents.
The FITNESSGRAM® consists of six fitness areas: Aerobic Capacity, Abdominal Strength and Endurance, Upper Body Strength and Endurance, Trunk Extensor Strength and Flexibility, Body Composition, and Flexibility.
Politico reports that California school districts report the results tests to the state and that about 60 percent of the state’s tested students are in the “healthy fitness zone” when it comes to aerobic capacity, according to the latest data from the California Department of Education.
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