Students with lice stay in school (w/video)

Carolina Astrain By Carolina Astrain

Jan. 6, 2014 at 6:03 p.m.
Updated Jan. 6, 2014 at 7:07 p.m.

A change in how public school districts address lice has one grandparent concerned.

At a recent Victoria school board meeting, Victoria resident Clara Ramos asked trustees to reconsider the district's policy on lice that, with the start of the 2013-14 school year, stopped sending students who have lice home from school.

"Lice is costly," Ramos said. "It's not something that can be addressed cheaply."

In 2010, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a clinical report concluding, "No healthy child should be excluded from or allowed to miss school time because of head lice."

Since the report's release, other national groups, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Association of Pediatrics and the National Association of School Nurses, have backed the AAP's stance on lice.

One option for school districts could be to adopt a No Nit Policy, which would permit students with lice to be sent home.

However, the AAP strongly discouraged the adoption and stated in its report, "No Nit policies ... should be abandoned."

Ramos said she knows a family who has spent up to $600 on lice medications and cleaning expenses for linens in their home.

"It's ridiculous," Ramos said. "I'd support the adoption of a No Nit policy."

Victoria school district leadership disagreed.

Dr. John McNeill, a licensed physician on retainer by the school district, is a member of the VISD School Health Advisory Council and serves as the medical director for the school district.

"There are no benefits to sending a child home for lice," McNeill said. "It's not a disease; it's just an infestation."

The district has instructed faculty and staff how to treat and prevent lice, said L. Murphey Stuart, the district's health services coordinator.

"Lice is an ongoing problem," Stuart said. "But I haven't seen an increase of cases for this year."

Dwight Harris, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said he believes students should be sent home, but he does not oppose the district's position on the matter.

"If I found out there was head lice in my granddaughter's classroom, I would go pick her up and bring her home from school," Harris said.

Students with lice at Our Lady of Victory school, a private Catholic school in Victoria, are sent home, said school secretary Dorothy Gehrke.

"Our policy has always been to be lice-free," Gehrke said. "If we know of a child with nits at school, we send them home."

Lice carries a social stigma that should not be associated with income or cleanliness, said Victoria school board president Tami Keeling.

Keeling said she does not support having a No Nit policy.

"I would never want this to be used as an excuse not to teach a child," Keeling said. "My son had lice when he was a student at Trinity Episcopal School, which shows even well-heeled people get lice."

The school district does not keep record of lice cases, said Diane Boyett, VISD communications director.

"It's an inconvenience but not a public health matter, which is why we don't report it to other people in the classroom," Boyett said.

In some cases, the district will work with an economically-disadvantaged family and help them get in touch with someone willing to provide a donation for treatment, Boyett said.

"We put them in touch with someone who can help them," Boyett said. "But we as a school district cannot provide treatment."



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