School's Mull Head Lice Policies that Lose them Money
Absence due to head lice costs school districts millions of dollars each year in lost funding. Suzanne Rue, who oversees communicable disease control for 800 Los Angeles Schools, and Ken Hawkins, president of the Long Island, NY Attendance Teacher Assoc., discuss the issue and offer suggestions on lice treatment and prevention. A Tip Sheet with how-to information from www. licesolutions. com follows.
(PRWEB) August 25, 2004
Most public schools have a Âno nitsÂ policy. That means that students infested with visible nits or head lice are sent home from school. The policy is designed to prevent head lice epidemics. However, thereÂs a negative side to the policy, according to Suzanne Rue, Communicable Disease Control Resource Nurse for the Los Angeles Unified School District. ÂWe lose approximately $20 in funding every day a child is absent with head lice, ÂRue explained.
The lost funding has a tremendous impact on the school districtÂs budget. ÂBy the end of the year, the amount is significant,Â said Rue. The LAUSD, with 800+ schools, serves over 745,000 students. Rue estimates that 10% of elementary school students get head lice, and are absent for an average of four days each. That equals at least $3.2 million in lost funding. ÂAnd thatÂs not counting the income lost by working parents who have to stay home with their children, ÂRue added.
Ms. Rue says that this year, the district will enact attendance incentives to cut down on absences due to head lice. "Our objective is to dramatically decrease head lice related absent days," she said. Some of the ideas include, performing lice screenings on Fridays so parents would have the weekend to solve the problem. Another idea is to give Pupil Services and Attendance Counselors tools to treat lice problems on home visits.
The district has also taken some unusual steps to tackle the problem on site. Each school nurse office has a MagiCombÂ®, an electronic comb that enables a nurse to remove lice or nits easily and quickly, on the spot. "I'm a huge fan of the MagiComb", said Rue. "It allows us to take some action and keep the kids in school". (www. magicomb. com)
The district is not allowed to use prescription or Over the Counter lice shampoos on students; but it does make recommendations to parents. "We have a policy against advocating pesticides unless everything else fails. We usually suggest natural products that have been thoroughly studied," said Rue.
Kenneth Hawkins, President of the Long Island, New York Attendance Teachers Association, says that students shouldn't miss more than one day of school because of head lice but often miss four or five days. Mr. Hawkins says that head lice cases are 15% of his workload, too high a percentage.
In New York State, explained Hawkins, absence due to head lice will cost a school from $20 to $40 per day in state aid, depending on the wealth of the community. With approximately 3.5 million children in grades K through 8, the loss of funding to schools due to head lice absence is between $25 and $35 million per year.
"Without increased awareness and proper use of head lice treatments, we're going to continue to see lost funding due to head lice absence," Hawkins stated. Hawkins believes that lice have become resistant to traditional treatments and like the LAUSD, prefers to recommend non-pesticide products.
One such product, touted by both districts, is the HairClean 1-2-3 Lice Kit which comes with a shampoo and nit comb. The product, made from plant oils, is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics' in their Clinical Report on Head Lice (Vol 110, #3).
Nationwide, the funds held back for a missed school day ranges from $10 to $40 per day. According the National Center for Education Statistics, there are 33.5 million children in grades K-8. Statistically, this would indicate that US schools lose between $280 to $325 million in funding due to head lice absences.
"Parents have to play an active role in head lice detection, treatment and prevention," said Rue. "There's a lot of free information available, and I encourage parents to get involved". One such web site is www. licesolutions. com which offers a variety of educational materials for parents, kids, teachers, school nurses and PTA groups.
How to Prevent and Treat Head Lice
From www. licesolutions. com
How do you prevent head lice?
Direct head-to-head touching spreads lice. They do not fly or jump, they crawl. Children at play have closer contact than adults, so they're more likely to get lice, though this does not exempt adults from infestation. Head lice can be spread by sharing the following items:
-Personal items (clothing, combs, headbands, hats, scrunchies and or scarves).
-Towels, linens, pillows, carpeting, and naptime blankets.
-Stuffed animals, dolls and cloth toys.
-Earphones used for personal radios.
-Lockers or hanging clothes together on coat hooks
-School uniforms, costumes, or gym clothing.
How do you find head lice?
Early detection makes complete lice elimination faster and easier. The nits or eggs are white, sesame seed shaped and very tiny. They are usually on the hair shafts close to the scalp. The lice are small, wing-less and sometimes transparent and are sometimes extremely hard to see. Complete nit removal is crucial to eliminating head lice from a childÂs head. A magnifying glass is helpful. Use a lice comb to move hair around so you can see more clearly and remove the lice or nits with the comb.
How do you treat head lice and keep your family free of them at home?
If someone in your family has lice, then you should immediately examine other family members and treat everyone at one time, as follows:
-Use a non-toxic head lice product. Follow the directions carefully.
-Remove the left over nits with a fine toothed comb.
-Machine-wash all bedding, clothing and towels. Put in a hot dryer for at least 20 minutes.
-Put all stuffed animals, pillows, dolls, hats, comforters and any other non-washable personal items in a plastic garbage bag and seal for 14 days. After 14 days, open the bag outdoors and shake items vigorously.
-Soak all brushes, combs and hair accessories in rubbing alcohol or scrub in hot soapy water.
-Vacuum carpets and furniture, then remove the vacuum cleaner bag and throw it out.
-Make sure you tell others about the outbreak. Babysitters, grandparents, playmates, etc. will be grateful for the opportunity to check their families early in order to prevent an outbreak.
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