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Nit policy withstands challenge

Students with head lice eggs remain barred

By Linda Jump
Florida Today - 1/29/03

SEBASTIAN – Parents won out in a fight to keep the Indian River County School District's current policy prohibiting students with head lice eggs from returning to school.

Last fall, school health officials asked the board to eliminate the policy based on new guidelines by the American Academy of Pediatrics. The academy suggested that nits, tiny lice eggs, are not an exposure risk and are not alive.

The School Board on Tuesday unanimously voted against setting a public hearing to change the wording of its current nit policy. Proposed changes would have let students with nits go back to school as long as there were no live lice.

But a petition signed by 350 parents and residents asked the board to leave the policy as it is. The district's elementary school principals also asked that the no-nit policy stay in place.

Angela Weathersbee, a Sebastian parent who circulated the petition, said she was pleased that the board listened to the parental concerns. "I felt like I was David battling Goliath," she said about going before the board to argue against the change.

Weathersbee said the no-nit policy "will provide at least a modicum of protection."

She told board members that lice carry disease such as Typhus and that she and other parents are worried that a single nit could expose their children to head lice and other health problems.

She said she studied the issue and found that medical professionals don't all agree that nits are safe. She also called the author of a study that the AAP cited in changing its opinion about nits. "I've done my research," she said.

Last fall, the Brevard County school district dropped its no-nit policy, partly based on the AAP's guidelines. Weathersbee said she's contacted Brevard parents and suggested they lobby their school board to reinstate the no-nit policy.

Indian River School Board member Herbert Bailey said after listening to parents who have called him, "I've changed my mind about this. The public had a right to say what they did and that's what changed my thoughts."

Board President Steven Mohler agreed. "We all had feedback from parents," he said.

County schools' lice-rule returns

By Linda Jump
Florida Today - 1/15/03

VERO BEACH -- After hundreds of parents signed petitions and called or e-mailed school officials, elementary principals asked the Indian River schools superintendent to maintain the district's current head-lice policy.

In a public hearing last month, the School Board made several wording changes to the policy, including eliminating the part stating students were to be dismissed, if they had nits, or lice eggs, on their heads. The board had planned Tuesday to set another hearing date to review the revisions.

But Superintendent Roger Dearing said it was no longer necessary. "A no-nit policy seems to give parents a greater level of comfort to safeguard the spread," he said.

Dearing said none of the principals objected to the wording change when it was first discussed in October.

Elimination of the no-nit policy was recommended by school health officials after the American Academy of Pediatrics determined nits were not alive and not a risk to become lice, if the head is properly treated. Last fall, the Brevard school district eliminated its no-nit policy, as did many districts across the nation.

But Dearing said parents are worried that other parents may not properly treat their child's head, which could expose their children to the pest when their children return to school. Originally, Dearing said the issue was the absence of students who returned to school after treatment with nits. Under the current policy, the spotting of a single nit requires that the student stay home until no nits are present.

Some board members still felt the issue should be the board's decision, not Dearing's, as to whether the policy changed.

"The grassroots is parents. I've seen petitions with over 400 names. We've shed the light on this issue, but this should be brought back to the board to take another vote," said Board Chairman Steven Mohler.


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