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Some Scratching Heads Over New NYC School Lice Policy

October 18 2007;  WNBC

NEW YORK -- Nanette Ross remembers finding out her daughter had lice.

"She got it, we all got it, my parents got it, it was not a happy situation. I sent her back to school completely nit free and she got it again because other kids had it. So that's when I started checking the whole school, Ross said.

That's when Ross decided to take matters into her own hands. The parent turned lice-checker has been doing school-wide checks at her school for years.

Rice said "every time I looked, I found something ... kids would go home when they had nits and come back when they were clean."

But that was under New York City's old policy, which required children to be lice and nit free to be in school.

Though some parents may not be aware, New York City has new rules about kids and head lice in schools.

A September memo from the Department of Education says "the policy on lice and nits for all New York City Public schools has changed ... students will no longer be excluded if they have nits."

Why the change?

The Department of Education said: "Head lice are unsightly and embarrassing, they do not pose a health hazard."

The Department of Education consulted with The American Academy of Pediatrics, which supports the new policy.

Dr. Rauch, a spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics said, "[In the past] kids were out of school for a lot of time because it's hard to get rid of nits and things were being mistaken for nits."

Rauch said keeping a child out of school could backfire.

"You have to be careful about ostracizing a child who's been identified as getting lice by having them miss prolonged periods of school, Rauch said.

The new policy doesn't sit well with some medical professionals.

For example, Barbara Glickstein, a public health nurse said "that's like saying a fertilized egg won't become a chicken, which it will. Nits become lice. So I don't get it, I don't support it, I think it's a misdirection...we've become a treatment based policy instead of a prevention based policy..."

Rauch counters that point, saying, "The policy is just making sure the kids can go back to school. The policy isn't saying we shouldn't treat lice effectively."

Parents are divided on the policy change.

Vicky Franzese has two children and said "although the intentions are good for kids to stay in school more I think exactly the opposite will happen ... it's actually going to keep them home more because there will be more cases that will come again and again.

Shelly Giddens said "it's public school and we have to go through what we have to go through--I'll be checking my sons head every night now."