|Parents Unite and Say "Give us Back Our No Nit
January 3, 2003 - Communities are
mobilizing against The American Academy of Pediatrics Guidelines
issued last fall to allow children in school with lice and nits. One
such group of parents just won their battle in Sebastian, Florida.
Parents won out in a fight to keep the Indian River County School
District's current policy prohibiting students with nits (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
The Academy blamed school absence on the
No Nit Policy, when
according to the National Pediculosis Association, the chaos in lice
control is reflective of reliance on ineffective products and
industry-generated guidelines. In spite of scientifically documented
lice resistance, guidelines encourage parents to use every product
on the drug store shelf. The NPA insists that this approach puts
children's health at risk.
At the same time, sales of pesticidal lice treatments continue to
decline, down 18% in the past two years. More parents, school
nurses, and child care professionals have learned that chasing lice
with chemicals isn't working. They are looking for alternative
Dan Sheridan, webmaster for the National Pediculosis Association's
HeadLice.Org knows that people are looking for other options. "We
are amazed at the steadily increasing numbers of visitors to our
"Thousands are arriving each day, staying longer, and visiting more
pages. This is exciting to us given that internet users typically
spend limited time on any one web site." He reports that people are
also taking time to watch our video on combing with the
They appear strongly motivated to get it right.
The NPA says that parents are the "experts" in the lice wars. They
know firsthand when a product doesn't work and while they may be
willing to try the pesticide shampoo once hoping that it will live
up to its claims, they aren't running back to buy more when it
This alone could account for decreasing sales of traditional
treatments. The profit days for ineffective lice products are
dwindling. Consumers are more savvy, better informed and generally
making more of their own medical decisions than in years gone by.
As reported in an article in Florida Today, the School Board in
Sebastion unanimously voted against the AAP guidelines scheduling 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
The NPA says that its No Nit Policy establishes a public health
standard to educate the community in advance of outbreaks and enable
everyone to know what to look for, how to safely respond and to keep
children in class and ready to learn.
Those who oppose the No Nit Policy misrepresent it as a means of
excluding children. The NPA says that dismissal of a child with lice
and nits is unfortunate and should never be the first effort to
control head lice.
Still families need to be accountable once they have been afforded
accurate information on what to look for, how to screen and the
importance of avoiding ineffective or potentially harmful treatments.
Head lice needn't be a disruption to families and schools. Nor
should combing be tedious and time consuming. Everybody wins with
little effort if head lice and nits are detected early and removed
thoroughly and immediately.
The NPA developed and recommends the
LiceMeister® comb for this
purpose and proceeds from the comb support its programs of education
and scientific research. The consumer needs to have a place to trust
for help. Independent of product manufacturers, the NPA is proud to
be the one they turn to.
A nonprofit organization celebrating
20 years of service, the NPA
reaches out to each new generation of parents.
The NPA launched Jesse's Project to reach certain people who,
because of other medical problems such as asthma, allergies,
epilepsy, cancer or AIDS should never be treated with pesticide
shampoos and lotions.
It is a unique situation where both the person being treated and the
person giving treatment can also be at risk. Pregnant women and
nursing mothers should always avoid using chemicals for lice.
NPA reminds parents that combing for head lice as a preventive is
the rational approach and is no different than brushing one's teeth.
The routine doesn't guarantee "no cavities" but certainly provides a
competitive edge. And when the dentist says "great job," it doesn't
mean you get to stop brushing.
Head lice are part of raising children today and routine screening
is the best defense. Parents need a means to do this that is safe
and effective. One should never respond out of fear or shampoo with
pesticides as a preventive. It is a community problem that requires
a community approach.
Last fall, the Brevard County school district eliminated its No Nit
Policy policy, because of the new AAP's guidelines. Weathersbee said
she's contacted Brevard parents and suggested they lobby their
school board to reinstate the policy.
Indian River School Board member Herbert Bailey said after listening
to parents that he had changed his mind about this. He stated that
the public had a right to say what they did and that's what changed
Board President Steven Mohler agreed. "We all had feedback from
parents," he said.
The NPA says it is a basic measure of doing for the children what
adults would insist be done for themselves. Nobody wants lice and
nits in their hair dead or alive. At the same time
research on head lice and disease documents the fact that these
blood-obligate human parasites warrant more serious attention than
they have gotten when considered as a nuisance disease.
Unfortunately they are well established among the childhood
This is not the time to abandon public health standards about
education and prevention of head lice. In fact the NPA says we need
to keep raising the bar.
The NPA has a limited time offer for free
Critter Cards to show
parents what to look for and how to differentiate nits from common
hair debris. You can sign up for one by visiting their website
www.headlice.org. Other NPA educational resources are available free
at their website to download and put right to work in the community.