Parents outraged after school suggests shapewear to tackle body image issues in middle school girls

written by By Sarah Smart, CNN

An attempt by a Mississippi middle school to address girls’ concerns about their body image sparked outrage among parents, forcing the school to retract.

Ashley Hyun, of Southaven, Mississippi, was incensed after her 13-year-old daughter Caroline handed her a letter from Southaven Middle School on Tuesday titled “Why Do Girls Suffer With Body Image?”

The letter discussed issues of female body image and, below, offered parents the option of agreeing to have their daughters receive “health literature” and underwear items.

“We, the advisors at Southaven Middle School, would like to have the opportunity to provide some health literature to your daughter about maintaining a positive body image,” reads part of the letter.

Hyun told CNN, “I had to re-read it several times, my first instinct was to go to school and yell at everyone I could find.”

Hyun told CNN that Caroline called the 8th grade letter “stupid” and did not understand its purpose.

After taking some time to calm down and gather her thoughts, Heun took to Facebook to share her concerns. Soon, other parents shared the agreement.

Ashley Hyun and her 13-year-old daughter Caroline. credit: Courtesy of Ashley Hyun

“It is difficult to raise girls in this environment using social media, using filters and photoshop,” Hyun said. “They’ve been bombarded with images of what the perfect body is.”

She then sent Principal John Sartin a lengthy email to express her concerns.

“The message, unfortunately, takes an unexpected turn by introducing my daughter SHAPEWEAR,” Hyun wrote in the email. “If my daughter begged me to wear underwear, I would tell her no. Now I find out that you encourage her to wear them. I’m, frankly, perplexed that the ‘counsellor’ trained in child psychology actually thinks that’s a good idea.”

Sarten called Hyun on Wednesday morning and they met later that day. Hyun said Sarten was deeply apologetic and said the counselors had nothing but good intentions regarding the note. He also told her that the program has since been canceled.

“The district has been notified of a parental permission form that Southaven Middle School has sent out to parents,” DeSoto County School District Executive Assistant Director Lauren Margeson told CNN in a written statement. “District officials understand how this type of information causes parents serious concern.”

Underwear can be defined as tight underwear to control the shape or shape of a person.

Underwear can be defined as tight underwear to control the shape or shape of a person. credit: Adobe Stock

Hyun added, “I don’t think they were trying to send that message, but the bottom line is the message that came in.”

CNN has reached out to Southaven Middle School for comment.

Heun notes that she did not intend this to be anything more than expressing her concern and adds that everyone makes mistakes and that the school is working on their mistakes.

Parents, talk to your children

“If anything comes out of this spreading virus, I hope it will start a conversation,” Hyun said.

Author of the book “Raising Children on the New Teen in the Age of Anxiety”, John Duffy, spoke to CNN about how parents can tackle body issues with their children.

“We have a generation of kids who are preoccupied with the way they look, and their self-esteem and self-esteem are often conditioned by their weight or flaws in perceptions of their bodies,” Duffy told CNN. “Even in middle school, their physical appearance is on kids’ minds almost all the time.”

He points out that children already spend a lot of time focusing on what they may see as the negatives and that it is important to help them focus on the positives.

“The most effective and beneficial intervention would be to focus on accepting your body, and working on developing strength, not the ‘perfect’ body,” Duffy added.

Phyllis VagelThe middle school affairs author and school counselor also spoke to CNN about how to address these concerns.

Harmless-sounding comments like ‘Are you sure you want a second share?’ “It can be brutal for a middle school student,” Vagel told CNN.

She notes that the pandemic has also had a significant impact on students’ mental health. As schools return to in-person classes, students become more sensitive and body image issues can increase.

Regarding her advice to parents, teachers, or caregivers, Vagel notes, “Make sure everything agrees. From what you tell them, to how you talk about yourself, don’t label food as good or bad.”

All the experts CNN spoke to agreed that parents should do everything they can to be a good role model for their children.

Heun said that she has also struggled with body image issues in the past, and she still struggles to this day.

“It’s so hard as a parent that I try not to put my fears on Caroline,” Hyun said.

However, she says she is aware of the difficulties children can face and understands the importance of doing her part to protect her children.

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