B y Derek Liebig
Whitehall Central School will examine its no-nit policy after the district’s pediatrician penned a letter urging officials to change the guidelines.
Superintendent Elisabeth Legault said Dr. Eugene McTiernan suggested to officials the district’s current policy regarding head lice should be examined and modified.
Although Legault said during last week’s monthly board meeting she was aware of only two instances of head lice since she took over as superintendent at the beginning of the month, it was something the district needs to address.
“It’s an issue that came to our attention and we are taking proactive measures and cooperating to address it,” she said.
Currently, students who are discovered to have lice—dead or alive—are sent home and must receive treatment to remove the lice. Once treated, they can return to school, but are evaluated by the school nurse before being permitted to return to class. If lice are discovered upon their return, they are sent home and the process repeats itself until the student no longer has lice.
Legault said the policy is problematic because students end up missing academic time.
“Students shouldn’t miss school,” she said. “We don’t want students missing academic time; that’s the goal. Having them home is not beneficial to students, K (kindergarten) through 12.”
Lice are wingless parasitic insects that live among human hairs and feed on small amounts of blood. Although they can inflict anyone, they tend to be a more common problem in children ages 3 years to 12 years.
According to Nemours, a nonprofit organization dedicated to children’s health, lice are not dangerous and are a more of a nuisance than a serious health problem. And while they can be easily spread if kids share clothing like hats, or have head to head contact, they are not contagious in the same manner as the common cold.
“It’s a benign condition, but it makes people a little weary,” Legault said.
Following Monday’s meeting, the Whitehall Board of Education was expected to form a task force, consisting of teachers, school nurses and parents, to discuss and evaluate the policy.
“It can be difficult to talk about but we need to discuss it further and decide where as a community and a Board (of Education) we want to go,” Legault said. “It may sound cliché, but it takes a village to raise a child and we want to work with the community and create a capacity to move forward.”
The current policy will remain in place until the district determines how to proceed.