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Lice policy eggs on infestation, parents say

By Karen Wilkinson

Triplicate staff writer

A Florida school district reinstated its no-nit policy after parents and principals argued that keeping kids with head lice eggs in class exacerbates health problems.

An Ohio school nurse is urging other school nurses and pediatricians to review with more scrutiny "Guidelines for Resistant Lice," a set of public health recommendations developed by a panel in 2000 that have led to schools nationwide dropping no-nit policies recently.

Crescent City parent and day care provider Christy Little is hoping to follow suit. Little is the spokesperson for "NITS — Not in the Schools" — a growing group of local parents and community members opposing the Del Norte County School District's recently revised head lice policy.

A study session to discuss the impact of the district's late September policy change, which allows children with lice eggs to remain in school, is scheduled for 5 p.m. today.

"We're not making a debate about it, although no doubt there will be public comment on the issue," Superintendent Jan Moorehouse said.

In early January, Little approached the school board in hopes of getting Joe Hamilton Elementary School, the in-town school her two children attend, excluded from the policy.

No changes were made at the time, but board member Bill Parker directed the district to examine Little's concerns by doing further research.

Moorehouse hopes the school board will get a better sense of both sides, "and there are clearly two sides," she said.

Little on Wednesday provided district officials with pages of information refuting claims the school district made and points not addressed, most significantly the rate that nits hatch into live lice.

Moorehouse said "on average, nits found within one-quarter inch of the scalp will develop into live lice less than 20 percent of the time," a claim the district's two nurses made, she said.

However, the National Pediculosis Association, a non-profit head lice awareness group, says more than 90 percent of nits hatch within a week to 11 days and mature in another eight to nine days. "The live lice will live for about 22 more days, laying the next generation of nits," according to the association.

Little isn't the only parent who wants to see changes in the interest of children's health.

Lorri Tupman, whose 6-year-old daughter was sent home from Redwood Elementary School two months ago when nits were found in her hair, said keeping infected kids at home is the only way to protect others.

"If they don't send the kids home when they do have nits, it just grows like crazy," said Tupman, of Fort Dick. "It shouldn't be an option whether they send (kids) home or not."

Crescent City parent Lila Horner said when kids with lice eggs are allowed in the classroom, "it leaves a lot of room for oversight and puts other children at risk.

"I don't understand how they can think that if they send a child to school with nits, there wouldn't be a possibility of them having (lice) at the end of the day," she said.

Assistant Superintendent Don Olson, who in January provided data showing the incidence of lice or nits-infected children district-wide, which indicated a drop from last year, said he'll give an updated picture at the study session.

"I want to present both sides to the board so they have all the information, so the school board can continue with the policy or modify," Olson said.

The question of whether public comment is allowed during the study session, which Little probed district officials about recently, is at School Board President Faith Crist's discretion, Moorehouse said. Crist could not be reached Wednesday for comment.

But according to the Ralph M. Brown Act, the California law defining open government meetings, a study session is the same as a "special meeting," so there must be "an opportunity for members of the public to directly address the legislative body concerning any item that has been described in the notice for the meeting before or during consideration of that item."

Study sessions and public hearings are still public meetings and are subject to the public comment provisions, according to the Brown Act.

If You Go:

•What: Head lice policy study

session

•When: 5 p.m. today

•Where: Del Norte County School

District curriculum and instruction

center board room, 301 W.

Washington Blvd.

 


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