School District 62 is slowly moving away from performing regular lice checks in schools, putting the onus on parents to spot the critters.
A committee — consisting of school administration, members of the parent’s association and a representative from the Vancouver Island Health Authority — has created a draft plan for a district-wide head lice procedure that will encourage parents to perform weekly lice checks on their children as a preventive measure.
According to assistant superintendent, Roberta Kubik, the procedure is expected to be finalized and moved forward this month.
“We’ve always had procedures in place, but we wanted to get it more formalized so it’s going to be an administrative procedure. It was put in its draft form just at the end of June, and we’ll be working to bring that out as an official procedure,” she said.
“It’ll happen this month.”
Kubik said the procedure, which is based on extensive research, will work on educating parents, staff and students on head lice facts, the life cycle of head lice, what to do if head lice are found, how to perform a lice check, treatment and confidentiality. Lice high seasons will also be stressed, which include the beginning of the school year, after Christmas break and spring break.
“Research says the best way is to educate family and the community, so parents can get into the rhythm of checking their child’s head at home where it’s… socially and emotionally safe for the child,” she said.
“We’re spending a lot of time educating parents and families and schools and more getting away from the approach of an actual team going into a classroom.”
In addition to providing information, the school district has supplied about 50 Bug Buster combs — purportedly the best on the market — to each school. The combs will be supplied to families who require them.
Charts to track dates for lice treatment will also be provided.
So far, Kubik said schools are already following the unofficial draft plan.
“We used to do about three lice checks a year and then when this policy came out we decided to play it a little bit by ear,” said Saseenos elementary principal, Ann Baty, adding that each school will determine when a lice check will be necessary.
“There might be the occasion where we need to do a full scale lice check in the school, but normally we’re encouraging parents to handle that, and when parents have noticed something… they alert the school and then the school kind of alerts other parents in that particular classroom.”
Information is expected to be rolled out on school websites and newsletters. Kubik said the school district website will also be posting information, which will be a culmination of research and input from the district, VIHA and parents.
“It’s been a really great collaboration between the senior executive staff at the school district, our principals and vice-principals, and our parent community,” she said.
Stephanie Longstaff, Sooke Parents’ Education Advisory Council president, said the district initially wanted to eliminate lice checks completely from schools, which would’ve been difficult on the busy parent.
“We got together with the school district and said, ‘OK, no lice checks is kind of an extreme change from once a month,” she said, adding that a compromise between the parent association and the district was met after reviewing research.
“One of the problems with checking in schools is sometimes we miss cases, sometimes we misdiagnose cases. There’s lots of problems with having volunteers do lice checks,” she said.
Schools generally perform “dry checks” where a child’s head is scanned for lice using a wooden stick — a method which has a 75 per cent correct diagnosis rate, according to Longstaff.
The most effective method of lice detection is the “wet comb” where a child’s head is lathered in conditioner and carefully combed through.
“We’ve come to a compromise with the school district that will allow lice checks to continue in schools if they’re done in an appropriate manner,” she said, adding one of the most important factors is eliminating the social stigma associated with lice.
“Part of the procedures and policies that are being implemented is we need to let everybody know that there’s nothing wrong with having lice. It’s no different than having any other childhood disease.”
Although the policy will be subject to all schools, it will be primarily for elementary schools as children are more prone to lice due to their close contact and type of play.
For information on the most effective method of head lice treatment, visit the SPEAC website under the ‘Parent Resources’ tab: http://www.sd62.bc.ca/Parents/SPEAC.aspx