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Milford School Committee Discusses Change to Lice Policy

A proposed lice policy change that has caused some concerns with parents in the Milford School District was brought before the School Committee during the March 20 meeting.

Milford's Director of Nursing Judy Dagnese asked the Committee to approve changes to the district's lice policy, changes she said are based on "scientific evidence" that the risk of the spread of lice between children is minimal.

Currently, the district has a "nit free" policy, where students who have head lice or nits (lice eggs) are sent home from school and/or can only return to school after treatment and when all of the nits are removed from their hair.

The new policy would no longer require that students be "nit free" before coming back to school and would also not require that students be sent home from school once lice is detected. Dagnese said that the new policy would minimize the number of days a student may miss from school and a parent may miss from work because of head lice, while protecting privacy and reducing the stigma on a child that having lice can cause.

"There is no scientific reason for children to be excluded from school for head lice," she said. Dagnese said that the evidence is based on findings from the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Department of Public Health. "This is not the opinion of myself or our nurses; this is evidence based data, which all of our policies should be based on," she said. "We understand that some feel emotional about this topic but we have to rely on the scientific based facts and the experts for policy development."

Several School Committee Members said that they had received numerous calls and emails about the proposed policy change from concerned parents.

One of those parents, Marsha Montgomery, who has two children in the school district, spoke out against the proposed policy during the meeting. "While I understand the CDC's recommendations are for public schools to do away with the "no nit" policy, there are benefits to keeping the policy due to the health and safety of our students," she said. Montgomery expressed concerns about the pesticides children are exposed to during treatment and the time and expense burden on families of a child with head lice. "Our current policy holds parents accountable to treating their child for the health and safety of all of the children. Without this requirement, what holds parents accountable?" she said. Montgomery told the Committee that she felt the proposed policy was "reckless and irresponsible."

School Committee Member Don Quattrochio said that many of the parent concerns he heard were about letting students back into the classroom the same day after lice was detected, suggesting that they reconsider that piece of the policy change.

School Committee Member Patrick Holland said he felt that the School Committee did not do a good job at "putting the community and teaching staff at ease" about the new policy. "I understand the science behind it, but sometimes there is an emotional component to this. It's the creepy factor, quite frankly that people react to," he said. Holland suggested more public forums to discuss the issue before making a final decision.

The proposed policy will be discussed by the Policy Subcommittee before returning to the School Committee for a second reading.


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