Counselors at This Middle School Decided to Offer Shapewear to Students

The program was discontinued when a parent expressed her concerns.

Photo: Getty Images

When Ashley Heun's daughter came home from Southaven Middle School Tuesday afternoon with a permission slip that needed signing, the mother of two couldn't believe what she was reading. The letter was titled "Why Do Girls Suffer From Body Image?" It was aimed to not only address the ongoing struggle many young girls have with learning to accept and love their bodies but also offer a solution — a solution that Heun realized was counterintuitive.

"Girls are more likely than boys to have body image issues," the letter, which Heun posted to Twitter, states. The literature goes on to say that poor body image in young women can lead to the development of "certain mental health conditions, such as eating disorders and depression," as well as low self-esteem and obsessive compulsions about food and exercise.

"But we can take steps to help our girls develop a healthier body image," the author writes. The school's solution to this decades-long struggle? Shapewear, bras, and "other health products if applicable." Talk about burying the lead.

Enraged, the Heun wrote a letter of response to the school in addition to calling the establishment out on Twitter, tagging the school district's accounts as well as the Superintendent in her post. Heun thought she could use social media to "rally the troops" and get the school to backtrack, she told Today. (

According to statistics from the National Organization for Women, research has shown that 53 percent of American teenagers are unhappy with their bodies by the age of 13, and by 17, 78 percent are unhappy with theirs. What's more, according to the U.S. Department of Health's Office on Women's Health, some of the main causes of poor body image include bullying, negative critiques from peers or loved ones, and, yes, celebrity media portraying a specific definition of beauty. (

However, there are many ways schools can help students cope with and work through these feelings of poor body image; handing out shapewear and bras to those struggling is not one of them. There's nothing wrong with educating students about body image — what it is, where it stems from, and the long-term effects it can have on their quality of life — but the sentiment is contradicted when a school also offers its students shapewear. This sends a message to the impressionable tween or teen that the answer to accepting your body isn't to accept it at all. Instead, the answer is to change it.

Heun told Today that she received an in-person apology from the school's principal on Wednesday, who disclosed to the mom that the program had been "discontinued." Lauren Margeson, the DeSoto County Schools' assistant to the superintendent, also confirmed the discontinuation. (

"The district has been made aware of the parental permission form sent to parents by Southaven Middle School," Margeson told Today. "District officials understand how this type of information causes serious concern from parents."

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