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School Officials Reviewing Proposed Changes to Head Lice Policy in Milford

Two new changes are being proposed to revise the district's current policy.

Credit: File photo.
Credit: File photo.

A policy review subcommittee of the Milford School Committee is currently reviewing proposed changes to the district's head lice policy. 

Judy Dagnese, Director of Nursing for Milford Public Schools, presented the proposed changes to the Milford School Committee Thursday night, and the changes are expected to undergo several readings before a final decision is to be made.

If approved, the changes would update the most recent head-lice policy and would not mandate a student to leave school if a louse or lice were found on his or her head. Under the current policy, students who are found to have lice are not allowed to return to school until they are found to be entirely free of nits, or the eggs laid by the lice, in their hair. The second of the two proposed changes would allow students to return to school regardless if they were nit-free. 

"This has nothing to do with my personal opinions; this is completely evidence-based and factual," said Dagnese, who referred to head-lice information that can be found on websites for the Center for Disease Control and American Academy of Pediatrics

"I followed all of those recommendations," she said. "They are the experts, and they are who we need to follow when making policy. This isn't my policy. I'm advocating what the experts are saying. They're saying that they can be a nuisance, but there is no medical research showing that they spread disease. They are not a health hazard."

Dagnese, who said she has received support on the changes from the Milford Board of Health and the district's practicing pediatrician, Dr. Felix Perriello, has worked with a nurse from the Franklin Public Schools, which implemented the same changes to their district's policy at the beginning of the school year. 

"They are non-exclusionary," Dagnese said of the Franklin schools. "They see no increase in incidents of lice, and it has had no negative effect on the health of their students." 

But the proposed changes have some parents concerned, including Milford resident Marsha Montgomery, who spoke against the changes at the School Committee meeting Thursday night. 

"I felt the meeting went well," Montgomery said. "I think the school committee members were open to hearing the parent views on this issue."

Montgomery said she has been in contact with the National Pediculosis Association, a Newton-based nonprofit that aims to protect children and their environment from the misuse and abuse of pesticide treatments for lice and scabies, which has recommended a "no-nit" policy as the public health standard to keep children free of head lice.

"For me, it's not the 'ick' factor," Montgomery said. "The school needs to be doing all they can to ensure that we are sending them to a healthy environment."

At an informational forum on the policy changes last month with parents, Dagnese welcomed Dr. Richard Pollack, an instructor with the Department of Immunology and Infectious Disease with the Harvard School of Public Health, to speak on the matter. Pollack discussed the matter of lice and highlighted a lack of scientific proof that lice are becoming resistant to over-the-counter treatments, said Montgomery, who pointed to a recent article claiming the opposite by WebMD.

"I strongly urged the school committee to see if there are other scientists out there saying the same thing," Montgomery said. "The nits themselves are hard for them to be transmitted to another student. They are the eggs that are cemented to the hair shaft. It's the bugs themselves that are contagious. One thing Dr. Pollack said during his presentation is that with the nits, there's no way to tell with just the naked eye wither the nit is viable or not. If we can't tell with the naked eye whether that nit is a dead egg or a viable egg, why are we allowing that to come back into the school?"

Dagnese said she understood the concerns and headaches that come with head lice but that compared to other health issues in the school, the matter of head lice is of a smaller scale. 

"I understand it's a nuisance for parents, but we have so many other health issues and crises in our health offices now," Dagnese said. "We have children with life-threatening allergies, so many critical illnesses, that we're spending so much time on this small issue." 

kalman berke March 22, 2014 at 11:26 AM
Horrors! Head lice and pimples! Get real. Deal with some really important issues. Head lice like bed bugs are with us forever.
MilfordMomof3 March 23, 2014 at 03:00 PM
Does anyone have contact info for the school committee members? This policy is crazy. Having lice does impact your learning. How well can you pay attention with your head itching like crazy. A lot of families won't take care of their child's lice unless the school "makes" them. It also costs a small fortune to rid your family of lice. Surrounding towns have better policies in place and less of a lice problem. It isn't a coincidence that Milford has one of the worst lice outbreaks in the state.
Andie March 24, 2014 at 08:19 AM
It's not a "nuisance" for parents. It's a concern. It's a "nuisance" for the school. That last paragraph with "life threatening allergies" and "so many critical illnesses" sounds more like a hosp than a school. I'm sure the parents of those children appreciate the schools efforts to keep their children safe. But would they appreciate their children coming home with lice to add to their problem?
Lisa Lamason March 24, 2014 at 02:46 PM
Please don't start pouring Nix and Rid or other harmful chemicals on your kids heads. These products don't work first of all -lice have become resistant to them and second of all they have poisons in them that can lead to cancer. Would you spray your kids head with Raid? They have more pesticides than Raid. The Nit Nanny Products are all natural. They have a killing solution to get rid of lice (smothering agent), a patent pending comb and mouse to get rid of the nits as well as a preventative mint spray. www.thenitnanny.com
Raymond Fellows March 25, 2014 at 02:27 AM
I have horrible memories of elementary school when one family got head lice. I remember my mother putting that stuff in mine and my sisters and brothers hair and then combing it looking for lice. Our beds got stripped, the beds cleaned down with liquid Lysol, our sheets and blankets washed with it too. It was very traumatizing and we didn't even get the lice! That was the late 70s and we didn't have all the medical issues that they have at the school today.

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