Advocate Editorial Board opinion: Providing education district's main goal

By the Advocate Editorial Board
Jan. 14, 2014 at 6:02 p.m.
Updated Jan. 13, 2014 at 7:14 p.m.

Head lice infestations are nuisances. These tiny, itchy pests show up on the heads of children and adults alike, no matter the age, health or economic standing of the afflicted.

Thankfully, head lice do not transmit diseases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. With that in mind, we agree with the Victoria Independent School District's decision not to send students home early if they have head lice.

The CDC's website says: "Students diagnosed with live head lice do not need to be sent home early from school; they can go home at the end of the day, be treated and return to class after appropriate treatment has begun. ... Head lice can be a nuisance, but they have not been shown to spread disease. Personal hygiene or cleanliness in the home or school has nothing to do with getting head lice."

At the beginning of the 2013-14 school year, VISD schools stopped sending students home early if they have head lice. This decision is causing some concern among parents, but the change is backed by statements from multiple professional sources. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the CDC, the American Association of Pediatrics and the National Association of School Nurses all offer the same opinion.

Schools, first and foremost, are responsible for the education of students. If students are removed from class for several days because of head lice, the goal of providing a quality education to our children is hindered. Every time a student is sent home early, he or she misses some or all of that day's lesson, which puts the student behind the rest of the class. Obviously, schools should notify parents if a child has head lice, but learning should continue.

Many schools across the country used to have "no-nit" policies, which sent students home and kept them out of school if they had nits, or lice eggs, in their hair. The CDC says these policies should be dropped, as VISD has done. The CDC website says nits are cemented to individual hairs and are not passed on easily. Also, misdiagnosis of nits is common during nit checks. But most of all, "the burden of unnecessary absenteeism to the students, families and communities far outweighs the risks associated with head lice."

Victoria schools must maintain a focus on educating students. Lice are unquestionably a nuisance, but there is no major health risk. Schools need students in the classroom in order to learn. Sending a child with a fever home is necessary to protect the health of the child and others in the school. Sending a child with head lice home is an unnecessary step. Lice can be treated while students continue to receive a daily education.

This editorial reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate's editorial board.



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