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After 4 years, district to reinstate 'no-nit' policy

July 1 2006;  Bucks County Courier Times

The Bristol Township School District is jumping off the growing bandwagon of American schools that allow students in class with lice eggs in their hair.

The board is scheduled Monday to reinstate the district’s “no-nit” policy. The rule will bar from school any students with the sesamesized lice eggs, or nits, in their hair — even if the hair was treated and the nits are likely dead.

For four years, students who had been treated for lice but contained some nits in their hair were allowed in Bristol Township schools.

The policy change will go against a growing trend in public education. For several years, many American school districts, including Bensalem, Morrisville and Pennsbury have abandoned their no-nit policies. Other districts, like Council Rock and Bristol, are considering doing the same.

One reason is the “no-nit” policies can cause kids to miss school and thus dampen attempts to meet attendance requirements in the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Another reason is recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Harvard School of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to end no-nit policies.

Those organizations have found that head lice are rarely spread at school, and that banishing kids from the classroom because of nits can cause unwarranted feelings of ostracism.

But Bristol Township School District officials said they want to do their best to prevent the spread of lice in schools and make parents feel more comfortable.

When a child is found to have lice, he will immediately be excluded from school until his hair is treated and all the nits are removed. Also, that child’s siblings will be screened for lice. A school will conduct classroom screenings for lice if two or more cases are found, and letters will be sent home to parents.

“I just think the nits should be gone before the kids go back,” said school board vice President Sherri Champey. “It’s not fair to the other kids.”

Champey added that barring nits from school isn’t likely to keep kids out of school for too long — a couple days at most. School officials from the Centennial School District, which has a no-nit policy, have said that the absence is usually only a couple days. Champey said that keeping absences down comes down to parents properly treating their children’s head lice.

As for the bad feelings that can come from being excluded from school for having lice, Champey said parents can also help their children feel better by explaining that the infestation is not their fault.

Recently, a group of Bristol Township parents was vocal about their dislike for district’s lice policy, saying it puts their children at risk.

Kim Norton, whose family was affected by lice earlier this year, led the charge.

“Hearing that they were allowing children back to school with nits didn’t seem that it was a good thing to do,” she said. “It angered me so I wanted to stand up — not only for my son but for the other children in the school.”

Ben Finley can be reached at 215- 949-4048 or bfinley@phillyBurbs.com.

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