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Head lice policy tweak before board
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The old picture of a line of students waiting while a nurse stands there and checks for head lice?
That’s old school.
And according to a revised Board Policy that was discussed last month at the request of staff who wanted clarification of the language used when the policy was enacted several years ago, the district will manage the issue of head lice on a case-by-case basis in a fashion that has become best practice for school nurses charged with overseeing the health of thousands of students.
“What we found was that when we brought every student and checked everybody, the number of cases that we saw in a given year did not increase,” said Manteca Unified’s Coordinator of Health Services Leslie Agostini. “And then we would have the issue of when we discovered a student with head lice, having to pull them out in front of their peers which was embarrassing to them and socially unacceptable.
“Mass screenings didn’t serve the purpose and used a huge amount of resources.”
According to Agostini, the district averages between 120 and 140 cases of head lice every school year. Most of those students are simply sent home with instructions on how to get rid of them using over-the-counter treatments available at most drug stores.
Part of the reason for the request for clarification, she said, was reworking the district’s policy as it pertained to nits – the eggs that female head lice lay every day. According to research, Agostini said, just because a student has nits doesn’t necessarily mean that they have head lice – especially if the location of those nits are several inches away from the scalp. In order for the eggs to be viable, she said, they need to be between 3 and 5 millimeters away from the scalp where body heat provides the perfect condition for incubation.
Currently the district’s policy requires the parents to acquire treatment on their own, but Agostini said in certain cases where families may not be able to afford the medicated solution on their own – or repeated attempts with over-the-counter options don’t work – the district will do what it can to assist the families so that students can return back to school as quickly as possible.
“In those cases, we review the circumstances and determine whether or not we’re able to provide assistance,” she said. “Sometimes it requires a referral to a primary care physician, but we want to make sure that the students get what they need.”

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.