HMHS student raised awareness on eating disorders at the BOE meeting on Feb. 22

Former board of education representative and HMHS senior Nina Liloia described the issues haunting middle and high school students in the district, eating disorders.

A Haddonfield Memorial High School student raised awareness for eating disorders during the Board of Education meeting on Thursday, Feb. 22.

Former board of education representative and HMHS senior Nina Liloia described the issues haunting middle and high school students in the district — eating disorders. Bulimia, anorexia and more were topics of discussion during the presentation.

Liloia discussed the prevalence of unhealthy eating habits and the deadly effects they can have on students, saying eating disorders carry the highest death rate of all psychiatric conditions. Eating disorders do not discriminate against age, with six in every 10 elementary school girls concerned about their weight, according to Liloia.

“Very, very early in life, students feel this pressure to weigh a certain amount or look a certain way, and this comes up from lower levels of school up into high school,” Liloia said. “It causes teens to use unhealthy ways to control their weight.”

Liloia discussed how eating disorders have infiltrated the halls of HMHS. She said she wanted to bring the issue before the board because she has witnessed firsthand that eating disorders are an issue for some of her peers.

Liloia said doing something about it starts with gaining knowledge of the subject.

“There’s a huge lack of awareness,” Liloia said.

Acknowledging that budgeting is an issue with the board, Liloia offered a few solutions that could essentially come at no cost. One way is to raise awareness through the school’s social media page, according to Liloia.

Liloia also spoke about the impact social media platforms have to encourage unhealthy eating habits among adolescents and pre-teens, explaining photos are all too often uploaded through social media outlets with the sole purpose of pushing people to lose weight.

“I know anyone that does not have an eating disorder can see how wrong these are or how dangerous or how sad they are, but for a student that doesn’t know any better, this what they see as encouraging or helpful,” Liloia explained.

With Eating Disorder Awareness Week starting Feb. 26, Liloia suggested starting a campaign over Facebook.

Liloia also addressed the issue of eating disorders among the athletic community and suggested coaches become educated with the signs and symptoms of eating disorders as well as be coached themselves on eating disorders. Corresponding with educating coaches, health classes taught at the high school level should emphasize that BMI is not an indication of health.

Board President Adam Sangillo said he will follow up and appreciated the feedback.

”You set a very high bar,” he said to Liloia.

In other news:

• The recent school shooting in Parkland, Fla., where 17 people were gunned down, left many schools around the country in a state of panic, prompting leaders of various school districts to ask the question, “How do we make sure this doesn’t happen to us?”

Haddonfield addressed these same concerns at the meeting. For security purposes, the board could not openly disclose details in security within the schools but assured residents it has been working alongside Interim Superintendent David Lindenmuth to ensure schools are safe and build a sense of comfort for students around their education without taking away their childhood.

“We don’t want to build prisons to live in to prevent every possible atrocity,” Sangillo said.

• School construction is 50 percent of the way completed, things are going on schedule and on budget, officials said.

• HMHS student Eleanor Dengler was awarded the Widener University High School Leadership Award.

• HMHS students Alek J. Kawczynski and Olivia C. Otto are finalists for the National Merit Scholarship.

“We are very proud of them while they are here and proud of what they have done,” Lindenmuth said.

• The next Board of Education meeting is scheduled for Thursday, March 22.