Head lice has never been an enticing topic within the schools, but more and more parents around the country are growing concerned as new policies recommended by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has spread across the country.
In Revere this school year, several parents have had reason to be concerned due to the number of cases being found – which is no more than usual – and the idea that the new recommendations allow kids to be in class with live bugs, a noteworthy shift in the nationwide policy.
The CDC and other medical organizations have recommended that it’s not a health hazard and that exclusion policies should be revised.
That, however, is not how the Revere Public Schools handle lice situations.
City Nurse Carol Donovan said the schools abide by the state recommendations, which still call for students with live bugs to be sent home. However, students who have ‘nits’ – or eggs – in their hair are allowed to be in the classroom as long as they are being treated for the problem.
“We like the state policy better,” said Donovan. “I don’t want to allow the lice to spread if I know it’s there. The CDC is saying it doesn’t matter. If I have a teacher saying a child has lice and I see bugs in his or her hair, why would I be sending the child back to the classroom? The CDC just makes recommendations and not mandatory policies. We will stick with the state policy because we like it much better.”
The news of relaxed policies nationwide – along with a few cases reported within the Whelan School sparked a bit of an uproar among parent networks earlier this year.
Children in two families were found to have the condition, and were treated according to the above policy. However, soon the rumor mill was reporting that there were 12 or more kids with lice and they were being allowed in the classroom.
“Thank goodness we don’t have a growing problem,” said Whelan Principal Jamie Flynn. “The Whelan School does not have any more lice cases than would be typically expected through this year – approximately 2-3 families. We do take preventative measures to check student heads of all class members when a case has been discovered or reported, and make the necessary follow up calls to those affected. In addition, our nursing staff is in constant contact with Carol Donovan to ensure that we take appropriate and guided action.”
Donovan said head lice cases come up every year and are not out of the ordinary all over the state. However, with national media attention on the new policies, there have been more questions this year. Eliminating the problem, though, she said was likely impossible.
“It can be in any school, in every City and all over the state,” she said. “It is a concern and we do see it here. The big thing is education. They do not jump like fleas, which is what they used to think years ago. Actually, they crawl. Our concern is mostly within families – where you put your head.
In schools it can go from person to person if they share barrettes, combs, or hats, but we don’t see much of that,” she continued. “What we see most often is siblings that have it and not friends or classmates…I don’t think it’s any worse now. Families have to just be diligent in teaching their kids what not to do. Don’t put anything on your head that isn’t yours. It goes along with don’t put anything in your mouth.”
Another controversial subject is whether or not to send notes home to parents if a child in the classroom has a confirmed case of lice.
Donovan said she doesn’t require that, and there is no official policy on it. She said it is up to each principal – some do send notes and others do not.
“That’s really up to the principal how they want to handle the situation,” she said. “There’s no specific policy on that.”
She said the bottom line is that lice will always be present in some form in every school, but education and prevention can help keep it at bay.
“I think the whole picture is about education,” she said. “If you do get it, you have to take care of it, but it’s the same as a cold or the stomach flu. Nobody wants it. If people know more about it, it’s easier to handle.”