This is a question being debated by the government of Puerto Rico. Senator Gilbert Rodriguez Valle, a young and popular politician, has proposed a law which would allow schools to label children as obese and report them to child services. The home would then be investigated and fines of up to $800 levied against the parent if the child does not lose weight in 6 months.
There are many opponents to the bill saying that the proposed process does not take into account the many factors that can lead to childhood obesity. Opponents also think it is wrong to put the decision making into the hands of teachers who have no training in identifying and treating obesity.
Objections to the new law include:
– equating obesity with child abuse: you would not label the parents of an asthmatic child as a child abuser.
– there is no component for parental education in the bill.
– Puerto Rican schools are not required to offer physical education and many parents cannot afford to send children to private schools that do offer it.
– there are no funds for the maintenance of public parks where children would potentially play.
Doctors agree that an incentive based program would be a better approach and that nutrition education for parents and children alike should be included. Senator Valle has stated that he doesn’t expect the bill to pass but that he proposed it because he wanted to “shake things up”.
More information is available at http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/mar/08/puerto-rico-childhood-obesity-law-parents-abuse.