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BOE picks at nits

The Toccoa Record

The Stephens County Board of Education on Tuesday accepted for review a new policy for head lice in schools.

According to Jennifer Stefanini, who addressed the board, head lice is a persistent problem in Stephens County schools, particularly in some of the elementary schools.

"This is an ongoing issue," said Stefanini, the school system's head nurse, "because some of the parents don't treat the nits and don't remove them. Then they send the kids back to school. It's an ongoing cycle."

Currently there is no policy in the school's handbook, but the procedure has been to send children who have lice home until there are no more live lice. The children are, however, allowed to return to school with nits - louse eggs - which will eventually become lice.

The new "nit-free'' policy, which will be reviewed for the next month before being brought up for final approval at the Oct. 18 meeting, would bar students from "attending classes with the general population if they are infested with head lice or nits."

Stefanini indicated that much of the problem stemmed from a few individuals who repeatedly spead lice to classmates because they are allowed to return to classes with nits still in their hair.

Under the proposed policy, if a classroom teacher suspects an infestation, the entire class will be checked for head lice "to avoid embarrassment and to contain the infestation."

Siblings of students found with lice and/or nits and their classmates will also be checked.

The policy further states that "every child readmitted to school shall be examined upon readmission and again in eight to 10 days after readmission to determine if re-infestation has occurred."

The downside to the policy, as superintendent Gary Steppe pointed out, is that attendance will be negatively affected.

"Some children are going to be out a lot," Steppe said. "There is a continuous head lice problem in their homes, through no fault of their own. We may have to go into homes - if they'll allow us to - and provide help."

According to the policy, "a student should not miss more than one or two days because of the treatment of head lice. If a child is absent more than three days, the principal should notify the school nurse or the social worker."

As far as helping treat infested students' homes, states that to treat a house where a person infested with head lice lives, pesticidal sprays are unnecessary and vacuuming works best.

"Head lice are human parasites and require human blood to survive," the Web site states.

"Vacuuming is the safest and best way to remove lice or fallen hairs with attached nits from...whereever someone with head lice may have rested their head.

Pesitcidal sprays are unwarranted and may pose personal and environmental hazards.

Vacuum and save your time and energy for what benefits you most - thorough nit removal."

Steppe said that the schools already provide aid to those with head lice by supplying them with medicines, which are donated to the school system.

The board decided unanimously to accept the policy for a 30-day review.

In the meantime, Stefanini, who said she consulted other school districts while drafting the policy, said she will get in touch with surrounding school systems who have similar policies in place to see if the policies have been effective and how attendance has been affected.

September is, coincidentally, is Head Lice Prevention Month.

Copyright © 2004 The Toccoa Record


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