COMOX VALLEY, B.C. – A local parent has launched a petition calling on changes to School District 71’s policies around dealing with head lice.
As of now, if a student has lice, they are not sent home. School officials also do not conduct head checks if an outbreak occurs.
Crystal Tinsley wants that to change. She’s the mother of two girls who go to Queneesh Elementary in Courtenay and has started a petition via change.org.
“Having to treat the kids as often as we do with chemicals, because the only thing they (the school) will send home, if you ask for it or if you go pick it up, is conditioner and that really doesn’t do anything because now the lice has become, what they’re calling ‘super-lice’, they’re getting treated so often now that they’re becoming resistant to any of the chemicals you’re actually using,” Tinsley said.
She said the medication parents have to use is very expensive.
“You’re looking at a hundred dollars every treatment,” she said.
“It’s not fair to us as parents to have to send the kids to school and then spend hundreds of dollars every couple of months to treat kids. It’s not a cheap thing to do and us as parents don’t always have the money to keep up on it.”
She said that she’s been in contact with the school and the School District 71 board.
“Basically they’ve just said that that’s what the policy is and it’s not going to be changed because there’s no health risk for lice to keep the kids out of school,” she said.
“My theory is, is it better to keep five kids home who have lice, or risk infecting hundreds, plus their siblings, plus the other kids outside the school, and parents outside the school. Then in becomes a community-wide problem.”
She noted that Director of Instructional Service (K-12) with School District 71, Geoff Manning, has been in touch with her on the issue.
“He said he didn’t know it was that big of a problem going on at Queneesh, and that he was going to contact Queneesh and see what’s going on there,” she said.
Tinsley believes they should go back to doing head checks to determine if a student has head lice. If the student does have it, they should be sent home until it’s treated.
“It’s not fair to exactly call parents and say come get your kid, but maybe send a letter home with your child that says please do not send your child back until he or she has been treated,” she said.
However, she said that this should not be as big of a problem as it is.
“We shouldn’t be treating our kids as much as we are with these chemicals.”
School District 71 spokesperson Mary Lee said the current policy has been in place for several years.
“Our role is to work with parents and to consult with Island Health to share the information on what the lice is, and what parents can do to check their child’s hair while they’re at home, to provide the information on treatment options,” she said.
“This policy is in alignment with Island Health’s best practices, based on evidence and in alignment with the Canadian Pediatric Society.”
She said in essence, no child will be banned held back or banned from school because they have head lice.
“The most important thing is to educate teachers, parents and even the kids. So don’t share hats, headphones or any other headdress,” she said.
“Lice is just a common, every day issue that happens with children. There’s no fear or stigma attached to it. As Island Health says, it’s not a public health safety concern, it’s just a nuisance so we deal with it by taking the education approach.”
Lee encouraged any parents with concerns to work with Parent Advisory Councils at their children’s school, or the District Parent Advisory Council.
“They have been really instrumental in offering a solution, which is to provide that information to parents. We even have some councils that hand out combs and kits and basic information,” she said.
If the petition were to get more signatures, Lee said the district will respect that.
“It’s a great time to come together and work with our District Parent Advisory Councils, if that means that we take a look at the policy and say does this merit change or not,” she said.
She noted that the district could offer parent information nights featuring experts from Island Health, to better understand lice and how to treat it.
“When you have that information, you can make a better informed decision. That’s always been our approach, to provide students with a safe learning environment, to provide the students with the best education and to engage parents all the time in how we can make the school environment and their education better so that they (students) can succeed.”
As of Sunday morning, more than 100 people have signed Tinsley’s petition.
It can be viewed through this link.