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Elmira Mother Worries that Lice Policy is Too Lax

By Ana Liss
October 12 2007;  WETM 18

Elmira -- When Jetti Ostrander's 5-year-old daughter, Alexis, got lice from a playmate more than two weeks ago, Ostrander immediately took action.

She bought special combs and shampoos.

She spent hours checking Alexis' hair, and cleaning her home inside and out.

"I was absolutely positive that there was no living anything in her head," said Ostrander.

She kept her daughter out of school until Wednesday, sure that the head lice was gone for good. She was right, but her struggle wasn't over.

"Now, after all that I've done, she should not have come home with an adult lice on her head."

Ostrander believes Alexis contracted lice at school again, this time from a fellow student at Broadway Elementary.

She believes that the district's policy on lice awareness and prevention is too lax, causing fellow students in her daughter's class to carry cases of head lice unbeknownst to their teachers or parents.

In Elmira, if a child has head lice, they are allowed to stay in school until the end of the day. But parents are asked to keep their child out of school until the head lice is gone.

After treatment, parents bring the child back to school, are asked to sign a form and the school nurse must check the child's head one last time.

But Ostrander's concerns are that Elmira students are allowed to be in school if they have nits, or lice eggs.

Also, school nurses do not check classmate's heads when a student is found to have lice. They also do not send letters home to other parents, informing them that a case of lice has been found.

That is not the case at other districts in our area.

In the Horseheads School District, there is a "No Nit" policy.

If a child has lice, their classmates, as well as their siblings, are all checked by the school nurse.

And, parents are notified by letter that a case of lice has been found in their child's class.

In the Corning School District, there is also a "No Nit" policy.

When more than one student is found to have lice, all their classmates are checked.

When more than three students are found to have lice, all parents are notified by letter.

Ostrander says she would like to see Elmira's policy change.

A spokeswoman for the district says that periodic reminders are sent out throughout the year, asking that parents be aware of the risk of head lice.

We contacted School Board President Dan Hurley for comment on whether he believes the district should analyze the policy. He said he would look into the matter and get back to us.

"Last night she came home with an adult one on her head," said Ostrander.