California Educator

May 2015

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I believe kids should stay home when they have lice. In my experience, it can easily spread among kids or even teachers if they get close to you. I work with preschoolers with special needs, and if they put their head against you or give you a hug, it's very contagious. Sometimes I see kids scratching their heads. I have seen one child give it to another. Sometimes I actually save the head lice I find on a child and have it stuck to some tape so parents can see it, because they might say, "My child is clean." I am extra cautious, because I don't want it to spread. Sometimes parents will say they noticed it at home and the student's siblings have it, but they still sent them to school because they don't want to keep their children at home or miss work. I can understand parents feeling frustrated, because it's a long process to remove them, especially with younger children who may have behavior problems. But hopefully, parents can realize that with all the frustration they are going through, they don't want to put another parent through the same thing. I have a 4-year-old daughter, and I don't want her to get lice, so I'm super careful. Our school policy is that if there are live lice, they must stay home, but if there are nits, they can send them to school. Personally, I don't agree with that policy, because the nits can hatch. So I don't think they should come to school with nits. I think there should be a state law that says students can't come to school with live lice or nits, to protect other kids and the school staff. There should be a law that protects everyone. They may be little tiny bugs, but they can cause huge problems! Sonia Pina, Oxnard Educators Association, teaches students with special needs at San Miguel Preschool. According to the national guidelines issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics, "No healthy child should be excluded from or miss school because of head lice." In my district we have an evidence- based, no-exclusion policy where students are allowed to attend school. That's because in my district, we want children to attend school, and there is no reason for parents to miss work or pay for child care for what's merely a nuisance. People may be fearful of head lice, but there is no reason for this. Oakland changed to a no- exclusion policy nine years ago, and there have been no reports of head lice overwhelming the student population. Nor has that happened in Piedmont. School is not a common place for transmission. Overnights and camps are a greater risk because of head-to-head contact. Initially in my district there were parents who were upset; some may still be. However, parents have recognized that this is not a school issue. They have asked if they can continue lice checks outside the school day on school grounds in a program run by parents, and the district has said yes. An important point is that head lice should be confirmed by identifying them under a microscope — as they are about the size of a sesame seed. Identifying a viable nit under a microscope would also be acceptable. This is something that can't be done with the naked eye. Head lice are frequently misdiagnosed. For example, if 10 students are identified as having head lice, the diagnosis will be accurate about 60 percent of the time, or in six students. Among those six, half will have an active infestation. So if 10 are identified and treated, seven will have been treated unnecessarily. There's no reason to enact legislation about something that has no health risks. Our energy would be better spent making sure students are immunized and know how to wash their hands so they can prevent disease. Joan Edelstein, Association of Piedmont Teachers, is a school nurse and faculty member in the School Nurse Credential Program at CSU Sacramento. Currently, there is no state policy or law regarding head lice, although the California Department of Public Health has issued guidelines. We wanted to know what members thought, so we bugged a few and asked them to share their thoughts on what schools should do. Yes. No. Point/Counterpoint Perspectives 20 Should schools have a no-lice policy?

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