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The Spencer County School District could have a new policy soon on how to deal with head lice, citing the old policy as being unjust and outdated.
The new policy is expected to pass at the next school board meeting, said Cindy Hayes, a nurse employed by Spencer County Schools. The current policy, which was enacted in 1998, has been deemed “unjust, outdated and should be discontinued because it is based on misinformation rather than science-based evidence,” according to a letter penned by Hayes and two other Spencer County Schools nurses and addressed to the Spencer County Board of Education.
The primary revision that will be made to the current policy pertains to the issue of lice “nits,” or eggs. The current policy is a “no-nit policy,” which means that students with nits — but no actual live lice — are still not allowed to attend school.
Thanks to evidence-based research conducted over the past twelve years, it is now known that nits are non-transmittable, pose no immediate threat and should not be a reason for students to be absent from school.
“We think effective treatment of head lice and/or nits can be done without disrupting the education process,” said Hayes.
The American Academy of Pediatrics, the Center for Disease Control, and National Association of School Nurses all highly discourage “no-nit” policies.
The new proposed policy states that if students are found with nits, “parent/guardian of the student will be sent home a School Notice of Nits Only letter and a Head Lice Action Packet.” Designated school personnel will recheck the student in five to seven days. If nits are still found, these two steps will be repeated. If after a second check nits are still found, the parent or guardian will be called by a school nurse. “After a third occurrence of nits in a school year and/or when truancy becomes an issue,” the policy says, “a referral is made to FRYSC (Family Resource and Youth Service Center) personnel.”
The new scientific findings pertaining to nits have led most schools in surrounding counties to adopt similar revisions to their head lice control policies, said Hayes. Spencer County Schools must now follow suit.
The new policy also hopes to provide more comprehensive aid and guidance to parents and students affected by head lice, Hayes continued. Spencer County Schools nurses have developed new take-home materials for affected classrooms, an individual student log sheet, instructions and actions for parents/guardian, as well as a process for requesting a parent conference with a comprehensive school team should truancy become an issue.
Head lice are spread only through close head-to-head contact. They do not fly or jump. The intense scalp itch that is associated with head lice usually occurs about two or three weeks following the initial infestation. Students should avoid sharing hair products, hats, combs, etc. as these are most common way in which head lice are transmitted.
After the new policy is passed later this month, a copy will be accessible by going to publicschools.spencercounty.ky.gov/, clicking on “Board of Education,” and then clicking on “Spencer County Policies and Procedures Manual.”