WESTFIELD, NJ — The district’s head lice management policy is facing criticism following a recent case at Lincoln Early Childhood Center.
Westfield resident Alison Simone, whose child attends Lincoln School, spoke out against the district’s handling of the infestation during the school board meeting Tuesday.
“There was an incident of head lice reported at the school, and the school failed to notify the parents,” Simone said. “When we called to complain to the school, we were told that they’re not going to tell us and they’re not going to let us know if our child is at higher risk than other children in that classroom due to confidentiality reasons.”
Simone said the district sent its head lice management policy to parents three days after the incident was first reported.
The district’s head lice policy, posted on its website, says that school nurses will notify a child’s parents if lice, nits or any other concern is found on the child. The nurses will then advise parents to contact a healthcare provider and “encourage those parents to notify the parents of children with whom their child may have had head-to-head or close physical contact to check their child for head lice.”
Simone said the lack of direct notification from the school prevented her from taking appropriate measures to protect her daughter.
“I just wasn’t given good information to properly protect my daughter from getting lice,” Simone said. “I want to stop it in its tracks. And, without the proper notification, which we were denied, I can’t do that. Neither can any of those parents.”
The policy also does not prohibit students with head lice from attending school.
“Head lice are a nuisance, not a health hazard,” the policy says. “Head lice do not spread any known disease. The presence of head lice can negatively affect families through unnecessary absenteeism, missed learning opportunities for the student and potentially lost family wages due to loss of parent/guardian workdays.”
“The district has updated its previous ‘no-nit’ practice to reflect current evidence-based practice recommendations from the CDC (Center for Disease Control), AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics), NASN (National Association of School Nurses) and HSPH (Harvard School of Public Health).
“All sources advise that students with live lice or nits (lice eggs) may remain in school,” the policy says. “Children with head lice, who are not sick and pose no risk of illness, should not be excluded from school.”
Simone disagreed with this, saying the district should not allow students with lice to attend school.
“If you have active lice, you shouldn’t be allowed at school,” Simone said. “It’s not right. It’s not fair.”
Simone also asked the district to add additional information to their policy, including measures to prevent the potential spread of lice.
“All I’m asking for is to put an actual policy in place,” she said. “A policy that identifies what this is, how it grows, how it’s spread, how we can prevent more spread and the precautions that we as parents should be taking so that it does not spread.”
Superintendent Margaret Dolan defended the district’s policy during the meeting, saying it is based on current advice from several medical organizations.
“I am not an expert on medical issues,” Dolan said. “That’s why we have school nurses. That’s why we have a school physician, and that’s why they go not only to the CDC, but to the other groups that are listed on this paper [the policy]: the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Association of School Nurses [and] the Harvard School of Public Health.”
“We didn’t make this up,” Dolan said. “What we really count on are those people who, they are the experts, this is the guidance.”