May 8, 2013
Parents of students in public schools across Virginia will begin receiving information regarding eating disorders next year as part of a new state mandate.
"We want parents to know exactly what's going on with their child," Charlottesville School Board chair Juandiego Wade said.
The mandate from the General Assembly takes effect in the 2013-2014 school year. Schools are required to send information home, specifically tailored to each division, about eating disorders.
"The House passed that because there's a concern there's a lot of eating disorders in the country," said Eileen Gomez, Albemarle County's school nurse coordinator. "It's a rather prevalent condition for adolescents."
The mandate is for parents of students in grades 5 through 12. There are no plans in place yet for Charlottesville or Albemarle County schools in terms of what will be included in the information, but the county schools' Health Advisory Board is scheduled to discuss it Wednesday night.
"I think they're going to explain what to look for when it comes to eating disorders, what certain behaviors that indicate that a child might have an eating disorder," Gomez said.
Gomez said some of the warning signs of eating disorders include being secretive about food, refusing to eat or sudden changes in weight. She said an eating disorder can develop as young as 9 years old.
"Because eating disorders have a much better prognosis if caught early, and of course if prevented, then it's very important that we have parents be aware of this so that they can intervene," Gomez said.
"A lot of those things that affect that child not only takes place within the confines of the classroom or the time period that we have them, but also things that the child may experience at home," Wade said.
Wade added that it's the schools' responsibility to teach nutrition and healthy living, which extends beyond the classroom.
"When we're educating children, we know that we have to deal with the whole child," he said.
The mandate for information on eating disorders just adds to the list of information schools are required to send home. Other topics include scoliosis and immunization.