Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Review of Toronto School Board's Student Lice Policy Renews Debate on Exclusion

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Review of Toronto School Board's Student Lice Policy Renews Debate on Exclusion

Article excerpt

Schools grapple with excluding kids with lice


HALIFAX - One of the country's largest school boards is considering changing the rule that keeps kids with head lice at home, inflaming the debate over whether exclusion is the right way to deal with the maligned critters.

Ryan Bird, a spokesman for the Toronto District School Board, said Wednesday that the policy is under review because the public health authority has changed its position on excluding students that have lice or their eggs, called nits.

That happened after the Canadian Pediatric Society reaffirmed its view that there is no "sound medical rationale" for keeping kids with lice out of school.

"I think that many people believe that as long as it's being treated, that shouldn't be a barrier to come to school for days at a time," Bird said. "I don't anticipate it taking very long to start redrafting our own procedures."

The Toronto board's shift is just the latest development in a long and heated public discussion over how to handle kids with lice, with some parents saying affected children should be kept away from school until the bugs are gone.

Others say the risk of transmission is low and there is greater harm in depriving kids of an education while making them feel ashamed about having lice, which are most often spread by head-to-head contact.

Boards across the country have different policies on the issue. Some, like Vancouver, follow local health officials' guidelines naming lice a nuisance and have no restrictions while others, like Toronto for now, insist students be lice-free before they return to class.

Boards in Calgary and Halifax don't exclude students with lice, but encourage parents to treat their kids before sending them back to the classroom. A spokesman for the English Montreal School Board said via email that the board has no policy, and schools have their own "systems" for handling the issue.

"Sadly, it is something we can never say good-bye to," wrote Michael Cohen in an email.

The small, wingless insects live and feed on scalps by simultaneously sucking blood and injecting saliva. …

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