School offers to send 10-year-old girls shapewear to address concerns with ‘body image’

Letter asked parents to fill out shapewear sizes for their middle school-aged children

Chelsea Ritschel
New York
Thursday 13 January 2022 19:49 GMT
School offers to send girls shapewear to address ‘body image'
School offers to send girls shapewear to address ‘body image' (Getty Images)

A middle school has cancelled its plan to provide female students with shapewear for “body image” concerns after backlash from parents.

On Tuesday, Southaven Middle School, in Mississippi, sent girls who attend the school home with a letter for their parents, in which the school’s counsellors explained that, under a new program, “shapewear, bras, and other health products” would be provided to girls suffering with body image issues.

In the letter, titled: “Why do girls suffer from body image?” the school began by defining body image, before noting that female body image is a “product of personal, social and cultural experiences, and often emerges as a desire to adhere to an ‘ideal’ body shape” and that girls are more likely than boys to have negative body image.

The letter, which was shared online by Ashley Heun, the parent of an eighth-grader at the school, then went on to describe the negative impacts of poor body image.

“But we can take steps to help our girls develop a healthier body image,” the letter continued, with the school’s counsellors explaining that, in an effort to address these issues, the school would be sharing “healthy literature” about the subject as well as “providing girls with shapewear, bras, and other health products if applicable”.

“We, the counsellors of Southaven Middle School, would like to have an opportunity to offer some healthy literature to your daughter on maintaining a positive body image,” the letter reads. “We are also providing girls with shapewear, bras and other health products if applicable.”

At the bottom of the letter, it included a section for parents to consent and fill out which sizes of shapewear they would like their children to receive, and a place for parents to sign the form.

On Twitter, where Heun shared a photo of the letter, she wrote: “This is what was sent home with my eighth grade daughter at Southaven Middle School. All girls were sent home with this letter. I’m appalled at the fact that they are trying to fix ‘negative body image’ by sending home SHAPEWEAR.”

While speaking with KKTV, Heun, who has two children enrolled in the school, said that she’d had to read the letter “several times” because she couldn’t believe that the school was offering to send its students shapewear.

“I really felt that this letter really missed the mark in so many ways,” she added.

In addition to sharing the letter on social media, Heun told Today that she contacted the school to share her concerns, and that she received a response back from the school’s principal, John Sartain, the following day.

According to Heun, the middle school principal apologised for the letter and confirmed that the plan had been cancelled.

In a statement to KKTV, the DeSoto County School District also confirmed that the program had been “discontinued”.

“District officials have been made aware of the parental permission form sent to parents by Southaven Middle School. While school officials have provided insight into their positive intentions, the district also understands how this type of information causes serious concern from parents. Southaven Middle School has since discontinued the implementation of the program,” the school district said.

While speaking to the outlet, Heun also acknowledged the school’s “positive intentions,” but noted that the program should never have included shapewear.

“There are girls who have a need for maybe bras or some other essential things that maybe, for whatever reason, they don’t have access to, and I absolutely love the fact that the school felt that maybe they could help with that. But shapewear should have never been in the conversation,” she said.

According to the National Organisation for Women, by age thirteen, 53 per cent of American girls are “unhappy with their bodies,” with this number growing to 78 per cent by the time girls reach 17.

The Independent has contacted Southaven Middle School, the DeSoto County School District, and Heun for comment.

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