Education

Students in Fresno allowed to stay in class with head lice

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Here's a story that's sure to make you itch. The topic: lice policies in Central Valley schools.

Should a student with head lice be immediately pulled out of school or be allowed to stay in class until the end of the day? A Valley school district is expected to vote on the issue Tuesday night and the proposed changes have some families scratching their heads.

"I think Central Unified is going to do what it wants to do anyways, whether parents agree with it," said parent Roxanne Jones.

Jones is ticked-off at the district's proposed changes to its lice policy.

"I strongly believe the children should not be at school if they have head lice."

Over the last few years, she said her two children have come home with the persistent pests and she's convinced her daughters contracted the critters from their classmates.

"Anytime she starts scratching her head, I'm looking through it. I try to take the steps to make sure that it's taken care of right when I see someone itching," she added.

Jones is worried those treatments could become more frequent if the district changes it's guidelines.

Under the district's previous procedure, students with head lice were sent home. Under the proposed changes, the child's parents would be notified, but would also be given the option of picking them up from school. If the parent couldn't get there, Superintendent Mike Berg said the student could remain on campus, but would be sent to a separate classroom where he/she would receive independent instruction with a certificated teacher.

"The California Education Code says we can't unnecessarily prevent a child from enrolling in school, unless it's a health risk. "The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says lice isn't a health risk. Here's the problem, it runs up against general concern in the community," said Berg. "They (parents) don't want that child in the classroom and we understand that, so what we're doing is revising the policy recommendation to say we can't hold children out, we do want children in school, but we understand the community's concern."

Berg said the changes would conform to the CDC's recommendations as well as the California School Board Association. This after the agencies found lice is seldom transmitted from student-to-student in schools.

"You have to go head-to-head and that's not something that's normally done in a classroom," said lead nurse Patricia Gomes. "They're more likely to get lice at a sleep-over, a movie theater when kids are playing dress up or sharing clothing."

While Jones says she appreciates the district's efforts to keep kids in school, she argues putting students with head lice in a separate classroom could do more harm than good.

"They're going to feel isolated," said Jones. "Why make them feel more isolated being that everyone in that room is going to have head lice? That's just going to isolate them even more and they'd be embarrassed."

The district insists the information would be confidential and other students wouldn't necessarily know the reason a student was pulled from class.

A final decision is expected at the Central Unified School Board meeting at 7pm.

In the meantime, Fresno Unified has already changed its lice policy to meet the CDC's recommendations. Clovis Unified said it deals with each student on a case-by-case basis.

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