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Southaven Middle School students offered ‘shapewear’ to discuss body image concerns in female students

Published: Jan. 12, 2022 at 9:45 PM CST
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SOUTHAVEN, Miss. (WMC) - A form sent home with students has some Mississippi parents up in arms.

The form was sent out because middle school counselors wanted to talk to female students about body image.

Action News 5 received several messages and calls from concerned parents Tuesday. They say it’s not the topic of body image that has them so upset.

In the form sent home with some female students, school officials offered up “shapewear” for them to wear.

“I really felt that this letter really missed the mark in so many ways,” said Southaven Middle School parent Ashely Heun.

Heun has two children at Southaven Middle School.

Tuesday, her eighth-grade daughter came home with a parent permission form about a new program, one she did not expect.

“I was really surprised,” said Heun. “I had to read it several times. Because I thought there’s no way this is saying what I think that it says.”

In the form, school counselors introduce a program to address the stress and negative effects young girls suffer from trying to live up to an “ideal body shape.”

They offer resources for students, like literature, health products, bras, and shapewear.

“There are girls who have a need for maybe bras or some other essential things that may be, 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,” said Heun.

The DeSoto County School District says Southaven Middle School has pulled the plug on starting the program.

District officials sent this statement to Action News 5:

“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.”

Mental health expert Melissa Donahue says social media and societal standards create skewed perceptions of body image, especially for teens.

“It’s very difficult for teenagers that are seeing that and have unrealistic expectations of what they’re supposed to look like as they’re growing into their skin and to be okay with themselves,” said Donahue.

Donahue is the director of Concern EAP Services at Baptist Memorial Hospital in DeSoto County.

“Being able to talk about it is that first step and having adults that children listen to is a great place to start,” said Donahue.

Heun says she spoke with Southaven Middle School’s principal Tuesday. She says she was told the shapewear, bras, and other items mentioned were donated.

She hopes this encourages parents to have conversations about body image with their teenagers.

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