As is my wont, I took a gander at the agenda for the upcoming NUSD Board of Trustees meeting for Tuesday, Feb. 5. I was left scratching my head.
One of the Discussion/Action items is a revision to the board policy on head lice. Ever since the great outbreaks of the '08-'09 school year, I only have to see that word and my head starts itching. It's an involuntary action, much like how I yawn whenever I see someone else yawn or read the word "yawn" or -- YAWN, sorry -- I type the word "yawn."
How about you? Is your head itching? Will you be looking over your kids' heads today when they return from school? Most parents I talk to have that same involuntary reaction.
Anyway, the state of California's Department of Education has changed its stance on the whole head lice issue. Oh, I'm sure they're still against lice, on principle, but they no longer tell individual school districts to send home a student for the day when live lice are discovered on him or her. The DOE also recognizes that school nurses are in short supply, so the active screening of the heads of our precocious and precious offspring at the schools is also no longer part of its stance. And that no-nit policy? Nixed as well.
The state's guidelines cite studies showing that the no-nit policy is not necessary. So now they are just going with the no-lice policy. How will they do that? They will do that in three steps, none of which actually involve the schools. One, routine screening by parents and/or caregivers. Two, treatment of kids with lice. Three, a nifty brochure aptly called "A Parent's Guide to Head Lice."
Once the revisions to the NUSD policy are approved, nits are not an issue, kids with live lice can stay in school, and parents of the lice-infected student's classmates may or may not be informed of the lice outbreak. The state says, "While classroom or school-wide notification is not recommended after head lice have been detected in a student, this policy is at the discretion of the school nurse or administration." It appears NUSD is punting that over to the principal at each site to determine whether notification happens.
Having lived through the great lice outbreak of '08-'09, let me tell you, while it might not be a health issue -- no disease is transmitted by the little buggers -- it is a hell of battle to be fought when they enter your home on the heads of your beloved children. Knowing that kids with live lice are going to come back to the class makes my skin crawl. Or at least it makes my head itch. Oh, wait, I might not know that. Until it's my kid with the live lice.
My read of the state's guidance has me finding a little disclaimer at the end. "The information provided in this document are recommendations provided for informational purposes only and are not intended to be regulatory in effect."
Let's consider the greater impact of having students with live lice returning to the classroom. You can't tell me it won't increase the number of other students getting lice. Send them home. And notify parents when there are kids in the class with live lice.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to head over to the school and check my kid's head. Right after I wash my hair.