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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Student Body is a documentary about an Ohio student journalist's decision to track down the reasoning behind -- and the politicians responsible for -- mandatory BMI (Body Mass Index) testing in schools. There's no iffy content (swearing, sex, violence, etc.) in the documentary, but it's unlikely to appeal to younger kids who might not understand the fitness terminology or the main subject's investigative reporting. But tweens and teens will benefit from seeing how perseverance and determination pay off and why it's worth their time to take a stand if they don't agree with a rule or policy.
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What's the story?
THE STUDENT BODY is a documentary chronicling Ohio student journalist Bailey Webber's quest to uncover the reasoning behind a state law mandating Body Mass Index (BMI) testing in public schools. When Webber (whose filmmaker father is the movie's producer and director) sees how upset her friend is after receiving a "fat letter" notifying her parents that her BMI falls above the acceptable range, Webber decides to interview educators, health policy experts, physicians, nutritionists, students, and even the Ohio state senator responsible for the bill. In each of her interviews, Webber asks the adults to step on the scale and whether they'd be willing to be screened for their own BMI; not surprisingly, most say no.
Is it any good?
This inspiring documentary follows how one determined high schooler stands up to politicians and school officials to complain about what she considers unnecessary BMI screenings in schools. Although the film acknowledges that obesity is a real national crisis, Webber's stance is that notifying students that they're over or underweight based solely on BMI is unfair and cruel. Despite her obvious (and understandable) bias on the subject, based on her friend's experiences, Webber also speaks to those who support the screenings and believe the notifications could help parents follow up with physicians and nutritionists to address their children's weight issues.
Of course, the majority of The Student Body consists of interviews with those in favor of getting rid of the BMI notification letters, as well as with students and parents who've been hurt by receiving the letters. And a large part of the story involves Webber attempting to track down a particular state senator who refuses to meet with her in person and wants to answer questions via email. Just when you think Webber is going to give up (the senator's staff is obviously frustrated with her persistent demands for face time), she persists and lands the biggest interview of the movie. The film is a tribute to student journalism and the power of investigative reporting, and Webber is clearly a talented young documentarian.
Talk to your kids about ...
What does the movie teach viewers about BMI? Do you think schools should screen for it (like they do for hearing, vision, or scoliosis), or do you think it's something parents should handle privately for their children?
How does the movie tie into issues related to body image? Why is that an important topic for kids and families?
Why is it important to stand up for what you believe in? Have you ever done that? How did it go?
How can you tell which rules should be followed and which might need to be questioned?
- In theaters: July 11, 2016
- On DVD or streaming: February 28, 2017
- Cast: Holly Allen, Michael Webber
- Directors: Bailey Webber, Michael Webber
- Studio: NightFly Entertainment
- Genre: Documentary
- Topics: High School
- Character strengths: Perseverance
- Run time: 85 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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