LICE WORK: A parent
tackles the problem. Picture posed by
Epidemic fear after nitwits ban louse
THEY have been the
scourge of schoolchildren - and their parents - for
But mums and dads now fear Edinburgh is
facing an epidemic of head lice after schools were banned from
sending out warning letters about cases of head lice.
Angry parents say they have been forced to de-louse
their children on a weekly basis because the ban has left
infestations to spiral out of control.
told to keep parents in the dark over cases of the highly
contagious parasite in guidelines published by the Scottish
Executive earlier this year. Ministers issued the edict
because they feared warning letters could lead to infected
children being stigmatised.
But parents say the move
has had the unfortunate effect of children repeatedly catching
lice from their classmates straight after they have been
cleared of the problem.
Pauline MacKenzie, 35, of
Colinton Mains Place, has two daughters at Oxgangs Primary
School. She said, since the letters stopped, she and other
parents at the school have faced a constant battle to keep
their children free from head lice.
Ms MacKenzie said:
"Since they stopped sending the letters home the problem has
definitely got worse.
"Iíve spent more than £75
treating my kids over the last five weeks. They go to school
clean and are coming home infected.
"Itís a major
disruption in family life and Iím having to put chemicals on
my kidsí heads, which I donít want to do."
really disappointed no one will offer any help - somebody has
to be responsible.
"My daughter wasnít well recently
and she came into bed with me and I ended up with them."
Mother-of-three Jackie Boyle has eight-year-old twins
and a five-year-old daughter at Oxgangs Primary, whom she has
had to treat for head lice six times in the last two months.
Ms Boyle, 39, of Firrhill Drive, said: "Itís a big
problem, but the school canít do anything about it. Itís just
ridiculous. At least when notes were sent home parents would
be aware of the problem. Itís going to become a really bad
epidemic. Some parents just donít seem to check if they see
their kids scratching.
"My sonís not so bad because he
has short hair. I keep the girlsí hair tied right back, but it
swings around. What can you do - keep them off school, shave
Parent representatives say the problem
is already rife in city schools and likely to become worse.
Tina Woolnough, founder of pressure group Parents in
Partnership, said she had written to the council asking them
what the education department is doing to help combat the
Ms Woolnough said: "They are creating more
stigma by sweeping it under the carpet.
council should be looking at this in a spirit of social
responsibility and not just hoping it will go away."
Ms Woolnough, who has three children at Blackhall
Primary School, said the problem their had become so severe
that the PTA had taken matters into its own hands by sending
round an information letter on head lice to parents of all
Nikki Sawrey, chair of Blackhall PTA, said the
information letter did not refer to a specific problem with
head lice at Blackhall, but strongly advised parents to check
their childrenís hair.
She said: "Everyone needs to be
alert and check, but the school didnít want to contravene any
A spokeswoman for the cityís education
department said it had not set official guidelines for schools
on how to deal with louse outbreaks, but said it would
recommend following Scottish Executive guidelines.
Councillor Jim Lowrie, Lib Dem education spokesman,
described the situation as "political correctness gone mad".
An Executive spokesman said: "NHS Health Scotland is
currently finalising a leaflet for parents which will provide
accurate information about head lice as well as details of how
to detect and treat head lice infection."