Parents push for changes in school lice policy | March 22, 2013 | Pleasanton Weekly | |

Pleasanton Weekly

News - March 22, 2013

Parents push for changes in school lice policy

District plan changed to reflect advice from experts

by Glenn Wohltmann

Parents got some changes but not all they were hoping for in a recent update to the lice policy by the Pleasanton school district.

A meeting was held Monday night after the district received a petition with more than 300 signatures requesting that the school provide notices to parents when one of their child's classmates is discovered to have head lice. That is something the district, following new guidelines, had deemed unnecessary.

About 30 parents, mostly mothers, attended the meeting at Alisal Elementary School about the new policy. The meeting began with an announcement from Kevin Johnson, senior director of pupil services, that the district will resume sending such letters.

"We are going to provide notice," Johnson told the group. "We understand, you want to be noticed so you can check your children."

Some people left after hearing that news, and the meeting then veered into other aspects of the lice issue.

School nurse Carrie Stavropuolos said the policy change came about based on information from the Centers for Disease Control, the California Department of Public Health, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Association of School Nurses and the Harvard School of Public Health, among others.

Stavropuolos said about one in 100 children will get lice on average.

"When kids get it for the first time, it takes four to six weeks before they start itching," she said, and by that time the lice will have already spread.

She said lice are not a sign of poor hygiene, are not associated with any diseases, and that lice can only crawl, not fly or jump. That, Stavropuolos said, means lice can only be spread by direct head-to-head contact, and that only individuals, not school or buses can spread them.

Several parents noted that children at school frequently touch heads during class or while playing.

Parents were also troubled that the insecticides used to kill lice are toxic. One mother who'd researched the issue said one common chemical is labeled a mild carcinogen, although a pediatrician at the meeting, Dr. Jonathan Flanzbaum, said the treatments are all approved by the academy of pediatrics.

Lice can also be removed by the use of a special comb, which removes the lice as well as nits, which are the eggs of lice.

That same mother was concerned that, like ticks, lice will be found to carry diseases at some point in the future.

Others worried that a child with lice might return to school without being treated, and one big concern was that a child with lice could be ostracized by other children.

One parent said a boy who been allowed to return to class was embarrassed when a girl next to him noticed them and said, "Eww, there's bugs in his hair."

Johnson said he and the nurses will consider an additional change in school policy that would keep a child out of class after lice are discovered. Parents have been advised to check their children for lice every week, paying special attention to the area near the neck, although there were some concerns that those who need it most will not get such attention from their parents. Household members of children with lice also should be checked.

A Danville woman at the meeting, who professionaly treats children for lice and is dubbed the Lice Lady, said she had seen "hundreds" of cases recently, although Stavropuolos said there have been fewer reports in Pleasanton this school year than last.


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