ConVal School District
Some parents concerned over district’s lice policy
Nurses say excluding child from school won’t limit cases
PETERBOROUGH — A perceived increase in head lice cases among students at Peterborough Elementary School brought a crowd of parents to Tuesday’s ConVal School Board meeting. And some went away disappointed after the board declined to make any changes to its policy on lice.
In a presentation to the board, school nurses Linda Compton and Pam Murphy said lice are a common problem and excluding children from school if they have head lice is not recommended. School-wide screening for lice is also ineffective, Murphy said.
“We follow the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics,” she said. “If a child has lice, it’s likely they’ve been there for a month. We notify parents.”
Compton said the most common means of transmission of head lice is head-to-head contact and that transmission through shared combs, hairbrushes or hats is unusual. Schools are not a common source of transmission, she said.
“For us, lice are always there,” said Dr. Suzanne Schoel, a Peterborough pediatrician who consults with the school district. She said lice are a year-round problem, with transmission occurring in summer just as frequently as during the school year.
ConVal’s policy on head lice, adopted in June 2011, calls for nurses or principals to notify parents if their child is found to have head lice. Children are not excluded from school solely on the grounds that nits — the eggs that become head lice — are found, although school nurses may recheck a child’s head. The policy states, “Head lice infestation poses little risk to others and does not result in additional health problems.... District employees will act to ensure that student confidentiality is maintained so the child is not embarrassed.”
Several residents in attendance said untreated students at Peterborough Elementary School were spreading lice at the school and elsewhere and questioned the board about its policy.
Lia Seymour said she has a no lice policy at the day care center she runs.
“It’s not a quick fix,” she said about dealing with lice. “I think the problem is that there’s no enforcement for people to treat. No one knows if they have been treating. It’s sad that schools have to force parents to parent.”
Colleen Stone, who runs a day care program in Peterborough, said she had no problems with lice on children at the center until ConVal’s policy was changed. She said students with lice should not be allowed to return to school, because of the possibility that other children will be exposed.
School Board member Matt Craig of Sharon, who has children at Peterborough Elementary, said he’d like to see all parents notified if lice is found, not just the parents of the child with lice.
“As a parent, I would just like to get a notification,” Craig said.
Board member Erik Thibault of Peterborough disagreed, saying that widespread notification “would cause undue stress and fingerpointing.”
Craig made a motion that if a case of head lice is found in a school there would be a notification sent to parents “at a level set by the school nurse, at least at the classroom level.” He said that wording would allow the notice to go out to a larger group of parents if the student in question was in a small class where the notification might result in the student being identified.
“You’d be getting a weekly reminder,” said Schoel, reminding the board that lice are not uncommon.
Craig’s motion failed on a show of hands vote and no other changes to the district’s policy were proposed by the board.
Dave Anderson can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 233 or firstname.lastname@example.org. He’s on Twitter at @DaveAndersonMLT.