HeadLice.Org Hot Spots

March 2, 2005

Lice outbreak ticks off some parents


A lice infestation at several beachside elementary schools has parents complaining the schools should have told them about the outbreak, but didn't.

Lice policy

Brevard County Public Schools' policy on lice: When a student is observed by a nurse or school official to be infested with live head lice:
  • The parent or guardian will be notified by the end of the school day.
  • A fact sheet on education and treatment of head lice will be sent home.

    For a student to be readmitted:
  • The parent or guardian will treat the student and sign a statement attesting to that.
  • No live lice are found.
  • If nits, or eggs attached to the hair, are found, the student will be readmitted and rechecked in eight to 10 days.
  • If live lice are found, the student will not be readmitted and the entire procedure will need to be repeated.
    -- Brevard County School District
  • "Parents are going to find out anyway, but hearing about it on the playground is more likely to cause overreaction than hearing it from school officials," said Eugénie Amalfitano, who has a sixth-grader at Gemini Elementary.

    School district officials say they decided several years ago to stop notifying parents if a student in their child's class had head lice based on recommendations by the Harvard School of Public Health and the American Academy of Pediatrics. Both organizations say healthy children were missing school "based on intolerance, hysteria and misinformation" about a parasite that does not carry disease and is merely annoying but harmless.

    "The discovery of lice or their eggs on the hair should not cause the child to be sent home or isolated," the Harvard report states, using italics for emphasis. It goes on to say that lice have been found in the hair of prehistoric mummies.

    District officials say lice problems happen every year at almost all schools, particularly in the spring.

    "Did you know that it's probably at every one of our schools?" School District Spokesperson Sara Stern asked. "Every school every year does some kind of education about controlling head lice -- the idea is prevention."

    Parents say they agree that stigmatizing a child is wrong, but they were frustrated at the lack of information coming from the school and school district. Amalfitano exchanged numerous e-mails with district officials about the problem, particularly over concerns regarding sharing headphones in computer labs.

    "There is a quantum leap between unjustifiably singling out a class or student, and prohibiting a school from disseminating factual information," Amalfitano said in a note to the school district.

    Gemini Principal Joan Holliday said she has now sent a note home informing parents about lice in the school. It tells parents to tell their kids not to share combs or hats and advises them to check their children's heads nightly.

    "It's a generic notification" said Holliday, who has been in education for more than 30 years and has seen the same parasite problem each year. Lice is "probably going to outlive" humans, she added.

    Copyright © 2005 FLORIDA TODAY.


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