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April 07. 2014 9:47PM

Head lice policy for Manchester schools still being sorted out

MANCHESTER — Head lice policy will once again top the agenda of the school board’s Coordination Committee today.

The panel is expected to hear from city and district health officials who are backing a revised policy that would no longer automatically send students home who are found to have head lice or nits. Instead, students determined to have lice would be sent home only if they feel “uncomfortable or if the administration deems it necessary,” according to the proposed policy.

Changing the current procedure has proven controversial. Last year, the Coordination Committee overwhelmingly rejected any relaxing of its “no-nit” policy. School board members have maintained that the district needs to maintain a no-tolerance policy toward lice.

The state Department of Education, as well as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Association of School Nurses, have in recent years come out against “no-nit” policies.

“‘No nit ’ policies contribute to the stigma created around lice,” the DOE notes in its guidelines. “This over-emphasis on case-finding can lead to unproductive use of time by school staff and parents, missed classes, unnecessary absences and parents missing work.”

At a school board meeting last month, city Public Health Director Tim Soucy said that the current policy is based on misconceptions that lice are transmitted readily from child to child.

At the meeting, at-large board member Kathy Staub, who sits on the Coordination Committee, requested that the panel hear from a school nurse before a decision is made whether to alter the lice policy. “I just think we should be making decisions based on information, not just opinion,” she said. “They must have backing for wanting to do this, so I’m anxious to hear about it.”

The committee meeting begins at 5 p.m. at City Hall.

tsiefer@unionleader.com


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