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Fort School Board Working on Head Lice Protocol

By: David Deschesne

Fort Fairfield Journal, November 27, 2013

At their November school board meeting, the MSAD #20 school board discussed the issue of head lice and how the district should deal with the problem.

Nancy Rogeski read a prepared statement in support of having a no lice/no nit (lice eggs) policy. “I feel our district is lacking in its approach to the issue of head lice. While I realize it is widely recommended that students with head lice not be excluded from school, it is also very clear that schools can decide for themselves what their policies should be,” said Rogeski. “Currently, MSAD 20 is allowing students to come to school with live lice, to go into their classrooms. In my mind, this is unacceptable. We are not being reasonable if we don't realize that this is what's going to happen; the lice are going to go round and round and round, and never stop. The cost to treat a family of four is approximately $50 to $60. Not to mention the extra costs involved in doing heavy duty laundry to take care of the problem, this can easily add an extra $20 to $30 so one round of head lice can cost a family nearly $100.

I would like to ask [the school board] to go a step further and establish a no nit policy for school. I think it makes much more sense to have a no nit policy to protect our children.”

According to Superintendent, Marc Gendron, the school nurse had seven or eight cases of head lice reported this year. “We honestly believe there were more cases, but these are the ones that got documented from the school nurse.”

Currently protocol in Fort Fairfield schools is as soon as a student is noticed to have live lice, they are sent home until they've had a treatment. After they've had a treatment that's been verified, they are allowed back in school.

Maine School Management Association (MSMA) has suggested that schools not have a policy on head lice. “We're not going to have any legal ground to stand on if somebody says they want their child in school even if that student has lice,” said Gendron. “The Maine Center for Disease Control says you probably shouldn't have a policy for lice because of liability.”

Since lice are not an infectious disease, rather a nuisance, prohibiting a child from attending school until the lice and nits are gone could conceivably take weeks or months for a family that cannot afford the treatment and that is where the liability comes in because schools cannot legally withhold education from a student simply for carrying lice or nits.

“You would like to think a family would stay out of school, take care of it, that is a perfect world and we don't live there,” said school board member, Scott Clark. “Not every family is going to deal with it diligently. I think we need to be cautious treading here that we don't open ourselves up for discrimination, that we don't expose ourselves to HIPAA violations in privacy policies.”

“Another thing we need to look at, too, is what about the child that comes to school and passes it on to another child,” said Paula Perkins, school board chair. “You've got to think, as well, what the parents are going to say about their child now coming home with it because it's been passed on to them and it didn't initiate from them.”

Gendron is drafting a letter to parents to be approved by the school board regarding what their decision on the lice/nit issue will be.



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