Mississippi middle school offers shapewear to help girls with body image: ‘highly inappropriate’

Ashley Heun, from Southaven, Mississippi, told Fox News Digital that her 13-year-old daughter, Caroline, brought home a letter and permission form from Southaven Middle School on Jan. 11. 

According to Heun, the letter was only sent to seventh- and eighth-grade girls. The boys in class were not given similar letters, Heun said. 

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The letter – which was titled “Why Do Girls Suffer from Body Image?” – discusses the significant impact that body image has on girls in particular, especially for their mental and physical health

“Girls with a positive body image are more likely to have good physical and mental health,” the letter says. “Girls with negative thoughts and feelings about their bodies are more likely to develop certain mental health conditions, such as eating disorders and depression.”

Near the end of the letter, it says: “But we can take steps to help our girls develop a healthier body image.”

Ashley Heun is speaking out after her daughter’s middle school offered to give girls shapewear to help them with their body image. 

Ashley Heun is speaking out after her daughter’s middle school offered to give girls shapewear to help them with their body image.  (Courtesy Ashley Heun)

“We, the counselors of Southaven Middle School, would like to have an opportunity to offer some healthy literature for your daughter on maintaining a positive body image,” the letter ends. “We are also providing girls with shapewear, bras, and other health products if applicable.”

At the bottom of the page, the school provided a permission slip where parents could say whether the school counselors could give their daughters “healthy literature, shapewear, bras and other products.” Parents who marked “yes,” were also asked to provide bra and shapewear sizes for their daughters.

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When she saw the letter, Heun told Fox News Digital that she was “shocked.”

“The beginning part was spot on,” she said via email. “We do need to be concerned about the effect a negative body image can have on mental health, especially in this particular age group.”

Southaven Middle School in Mississippi sent this letter home with seventh- and eighth-grade girls on Jan. 11. An official with the school district told Fox News Digital that the program has been canceled.

Southaven Middle School in Mississippi sent this letter home with seventh- and eighth-grade girls on Jan. 11. An official with the school district told Fox News Digital that the program has been canceled. (Courtesy Ashley Heun)

“I am all for offering literature, bras, underwear, etc. to girls, but shapewear should have never been in the conversation,” Heun added. “It is highly inappropriate for that age group for many reasons both physically and emotionally.” 

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The day she received the letter, Heun posted a picture of it on Facebook to make other parents aware, she said.

“I wanted other parents in our community to know what was sent out, how bad the message was, and in hopes of having other parents express their outrage to the school,” Heun told Fox. “The message that comes across is ‘we understand how hard it is to attain the ideal body. It’s not possible, so here is some shapewear to make you look better.’”

"I am all for offering literature, bras, underwear, etc to girls, but shapewear should have never been in the conversation," Heun told Fox News Digital. "It is highly inappropriate for that age group for many reasons both physically and emotionally." 

“I am all for offering literature, bras, underwear, etc to girls, but shapewear should have never been in the conversation,” Heun told Fox News Digital. “It is highly inappropriate for that age group for many reasons both physically and emotionally.”  (Courtesy Ashley Heun)

Heun said she also sent an email to the principal, explaining why she was concerned about the letter “and the message it was sending,” Heun said.

 

The next day, Heun said the principal called and asked Heun to come to the school to discuss the program. 

Heun said the principal “apologized profusely” and agreed with “a lot” of what Heun said in her email. 

According to Heun, Southaven Middle School had recently received a large donation of bras, underwear and shapewear to its "closet" that helps students in need.

According to Heun, Southaven Middle School had recently received a large donation of bras, underwear and shapewear to its “closet” that helps students in need. (iStock)

According to Heun, the school has a “closet” where students in need can get clothes and shoes in case of an emergency, like a fire, or if the student has a wardrobe malfunction while at school.

The school had recently received a large donation of bras, underwear and shapewear to its “closet” and had initially “decided to have a mass distribution to any girl who wanted or needed it,” Heun said. Hence, the letter.

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“[The principal] said that the counselors had the best of intentions when sending the letter out, but that they had decided to cancel the program,” Heun said. 

According to Heun, the donated items will still be available to students who need them, but the items will not be handed out more broadly.

In an email to Fox News Digital, Lauren Margeson, the executive administrative assistant to the De Soto County School District superintendent, confirmed that the program had been canceled. 

“The district has been made aware of the parental permission form sent to parents by Southaven Middle School,” Margeson told Fox. “District officials understand how this type of information causes serious concern from parents. The principal at Southaven Middle School has met with the parent, and the school has discontinued the implementation of the program.”

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Heun told Fox that despite the school’s mistake, she doesn’t want to “bash” school officials.

“They are overworked, underpaid and understaffed,” she said. “Am I happy with what they did? No, I’m not. What I want to show, though, is how easily we can send damaging messages to our children.”

“They see and hear everything and can easily internalize negative messages,” she added. 

Heun also pointed out that boys, not just girls, have body image issues that they struggle with. 

“Kids today have so much pressure with social media to be perfect,” Heun said. “Filters and Photoshop can be incredibly damaging.”

Ultimately, Heun wants other parents to think about the messages they might be sending to their kids, even without realizing it. 

“I want parents to ask their kids what they think about this story and about shapewear, body image, and/or social media,” Heun said. “The last couple years have taken a toll on the mental health of our young people, and I want parents to check in with their kids and see how they are really doing.”

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