Schools working out the bugs

Seymour Community School Corp. officials are taking the time to develop a comprehensive policy to deal with a variety of insects and parasites that may be found on students, including lice and bedbugs.

In March, school nurse coordinator Sherry Reinhart recommended to the school board to change the district’s policy of sending students home when it is discovered they have lice.

Instead, she said those students should be allowed to return to the classroom after a school nurse has combed all of the visible lice out of their hair. Parents would still be notified and have the option of picking up their child to take them home and treat them right away with lice-killing shampoo.

Reinhart said the reason for wanting to change the policy is because of the number of students who are out of school and missing instruction for weeks at a time because their parents are not taking care of the lice at home.

The proposed change is supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Association of School Nurses, Reinhart said.

Parent Brett Bevers went before the school board earlier this month to voice his concerns with the possible changes.

“It has really upset a lot of parents in the community,” he said. “It’s the same way we’ve dealt with lice since I was a kid, since you guys were kids I’m sure, to send the child home so they can get proper care away from other kids so that they don’t potentially spread it.”

After talking to several medical professionals, Bevers said he understands that the proposal is medically sound but still doesn’t agree with the risk. He said he would like to see the school board collect and present information from studies on how it could affect the general population.

“Are there other communities that have put this into place, and how has it affected the kids there?” he asked. “I’m curious if it ends up spreading out more in the population of students if they do this.”

Superintendent Rob Hooker said there is always information available in opposition of an idea, along with statistics to back it up.

“The material I’ve seen from the school nurses shows there is no significant increase in the number of students with head lice when a school corporation adopts this,” Hooker said.

Bevers said although lice is treatable and not considered a major health concern, he would still rather his daughter not have it.

“Lice is something you can get taken care of in a couple of weeks if the parents are on it,” he said. “So it’s not like if my kid ends up with lice because you’ve allowed other students with lice to be next to her, it’s not going to be the end of the world, but I prefer to not have to deal with lice if I don’t have to.”

Hooker said he felt the board should “slow down” and work to create a general policy with guidelines that are more specific for different situations and the forms needed to hold parents accountable for making sure the problem is addressed.

“I wanted to include all of the other little bugs and critters because we deal with lice, bedbugs, ticks, fleas, ring worm, scabies and other things,” he said. “So just to have a policy on lice and bedbugs doesn’t work because we need to cover all of those so the school nurses know what to hand out to the parents.”

Bevers agreed there is a bigger problem if students are missing school weeks at a time and are not being treated for the bugs at home. He suggested the school system get Child Protective Services involved at that point.

“It’s ridiculous there are children out there that aren’t getting this taken care of,” he said.

Hooker said a new policy would likely be brought before the board for a first read in June and final approval in July before school starts in August.

“It is a public process,” Hooker said. “The board does not create policies in secret or executive session.”

Author photo
January Rutherford is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. She can be reached at jrutherford@tribtown.com or 812-523-7069.