EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 31, 2014

N.H. schools change head lice policies

Head lice sends fewer students home

By Alex Lippa

---- — Derry resident Beth Doherty said there’s one thing that schools should do if one of their students has head lice.

“They should be sent home,” she said. “The longer they are there, the longer the bugs stick around and the chances of kids getting it are very high.”

But Doherty’s beliefs clash with what the New Hampshire Department of Education recommends. The department encourages districts to keep students in school, even if lice are found, according to the website.

“The student should be allowed to remain in the classroom that day if comfortable and return to school the following day,” the website reads. “There is no research data that demonstrates that enforced exclusion policies are effective in reducing the transmission of lice.”

No one from the Department of Education could speak to the policy yesterday. The state cut its school health service consultant from last year’s budget.

The rationale behind the policy is to keep students in school.

“The management of (head lice) should proceed so as to not disrupt the education process,” the website reads.

But districts around the region handle lice differently.

Sanborn superintendent Brian Blake said his district adheres to what the state recommends.

“I think, over time, the whole thought was that they needed to be isolated and quarantined.” Blake said.”That’s not as accurate anymore. We don’t isolate students. We try to work closely with families to eradicate the issue, but we also need to try to maintain the kid’s normal schedule. We don’t want them missing school time.”

Londonderry takes a completely different approach.

“We have a no nit policy, so we send them home right away,” said Kim Carpinone, director of student services in Londonderry. “They stay home until the nits are gone.”

Christine Cherry, owner of Nits End Head Lice Removal in Plaistow, said the trend of schools keeping students in class has grown in the last couple of years.

“More and more, they are changing that policy,” she said. “It’s difficult because some parents get upset over these new rules. But a child is at risk everywhere they go. Every time you send your child to play sports, they’re more at risk because of head to head contact. It’s a fact of life that your children are going to contract a cold or flu and the same applies with this.”

Some schools are in the process of changing their policies.

Pelham superintendent Amanda Lecaroz said she received information, the result of research by one of her school nurses, which said sending the students home was the wrong thing to do.

“We’re currently going to rewrite our policy,” Lecaroz said. “We should present it to the School Board next month. Essentially, it says lice doesn’t jump from head to head. There needs to be head to head contact, and that doesn’t happen much at school.”

The schools also differed on their policies to alert parents if someone else in their child’s classroom has lice.

Lecaroz said a notice goes home to parents if multiple students have lice.

“We deal with it individually because the possibility of other students having it is extremely low,” she said.

Other schools sent notes home when any student in a classroom has lice.

“We’ll just explain that someone has it in the classroom, just so that they’re aware,” Blake said.

Cherry said letting other parents know is important when a child gets lice.

“Parents of other students in the class should be notified that lice has been present in the classroom,” she said. “The communication is key to preventing a more serious outbreak.”

In Derry, Doherty said she has never received a notice that someone in her child’s classroom has had lice, even though she knows students have.

“There’s been years it’s gone rampant,” she said. “All we’ve gotten was the general seasonal head lice note that the nurse sends out.”

Derry Superintendent Laura Nelson was not available for comment yesterday.