Catholic board stands firm on lice policy despite health unit fears of student stress over exclusion

KEMPTVILLE - Catholic students found with head lice will continue to be sent home from school after a review of the separate board’s policy.

In a decision at odds with the regional health unit, the Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario will maintain its longstanding policy that students with head lice will be sent home - though a return to school can occur after the first treatment.

“We regularly update all of our policies, (and the head-lice policy is) basically the same (as in previous years),” said board vice-chair Robin Reil.

The Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit has a different view, however, saying exclusion policies add to the burden of stress already experienced by the child and their family. A review of evidence, according to the health unit, shows that screening children for head lice in schools and excluding children upon finding nits is ineffective in controlling the spread of head lice.

Reil said the CDSBEO policy sees students sent home for a short time.

“They go home, they get the wash done and they come back,” he said.

Todd Lalonde, the board chair, noted children with head lice that are sent home are encouraged to be back in school the next day.

“The board is there to support families,” Lalonde said. “Obviously we want the student back as soon as possible, we encourage (the child and family) to come back the next day with the issue resolved.”

Lalonde noted that the CDSBEO works “hand in hand with the two medical doctors of health” in the board’s region.

“We do take direction from the health (units),” Lalonde said. “But we also have our own policies and procedures.”

The local Catholic board stands among a declining number of school boards where students with lice would be sent home for any period of time. Most schools will now send treatment information and recommendations home with the child and reinforce preventative measures with the student body — but no longer exclude that child from school for any length of time.

The CDSBEO in its administrative procedure noted the purpose of the review was to ensure that issues and procedures related to pediculosis are dealt with in a sensitive and knowledgeable manner, that it recognizes head lice is not a disease or health issue, but is defined as a social nuisance which needs to be managed in the best interest of students through the parents, students, staff and the school community.

The Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit has said it will no longer participate in the training of volunteers or development of policies related to the exclusion of children from schools with possible head lice infestations.