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Portland Public Schools & Its Lice Policy

April 21st, 2007

Can you even deal with another post on lice? The whole thing — the social stigma, the health consequences of kids getting pesticides dumped on their heads over and over (pesticides that don’t always work. The nurse I talked with says there is a lot of concern among the traditional medical community because the pesticides — Rid, Nix, etc. aren’t strong enough for whatever SuperLouse is out there)… my anger at parents who intentionally send their kids to school lousy. Who refuse to pick up the phone and say, “I’m sorry, but my kid has lice, and we didn’t know when we came to your place for the sleepover/playdate/birthday party…” My anger at the school district and the staff, for letting this problem get out of hand. ONE KID CAN INFEST A WHOLE CLASS, SEE? I am no genius here, but one goddamn louse is all it takes.

Portland Public School’s policy? What policy? It states that if three kids or more are infested, in the same classroom, in a ten-day period, then they’ll send a letter home (maybe), check heads (maybe — only the school nursing staff has been diminished to a skeleton crew, so there are no medical/health people in the building), make phone calls home (maybe). I’ve talked with friends out of state — it seems to be a growing trend, this apathy. Mostly, though, school staff still seems to be making an effort to check heads and notify parents.

Except when they don’t.

Me? I’m thinking it’s yet one more way for the school districts to try to force their hands. They don’t want to be in the business of playing parent. They don’t want to provide aftercare, healthcare, an education in regards to ethics and morals. Well, guess what? If the kids aren’t receiving that at home — you, school people, are all they have. You are it. You are the safety net. So don’t you dare tell me, no it’s not my problem. And the parents say no, it’s not my problem, either. And guess who’s out in the cold? Some kid, whose problem it becomes in a huge way.

Someone has to be the grown-up here, and I’m sick of it always being me.

It’s your turn.

I’m sending my kids back to school Monday and I’m thinking, why? They miss their friends, their teachers, their routine. But they get re-infested and I have to deal with this shit all over again? We’re already dealing with it again, still, whatever, this week and next — the protocol is to treat with Cetaphil hand lotion, wash everything, all that, all over again. I’ll post the treatment schedule another time. It really does seem to be working, knock wood. We haven’t seen any bugs, nits or eggs in a week and a half? I don’t want to take the kids back to school! I’d rather keep them here. It’s less work, believe it or not. No drama and stress, aka The Trouble Chart. We haven’t been sick (knock wood, again), the kids are getting enough sleep and aren’t grouchy. We’ve been able to get out to the library, the art museum. We’ve been doing cool homeschooling stuff (all you homeschoolers out there — sorry! Sorry I talked such shit before and “don’t your kids drive you nuts when they’re with you all day?” and of course I meant, “don’t you think homeschooling is a little nuts?” No, I totally get where you’re coming from now). I don’t miss the crazy stop/start nature of our school district. We have more continuity now. We’ve done homework (I printed out a ton of sheets from the Internet), had spelling tests, introduced ourselves to Nancy Drew, made art, studied butterflies and dinosaurs, gardened and cooked. We’ve started reading a page each day from Shakespeare and the Bible (like Katie in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn — that’s where I got the idea). And no, I’m not some fanatic over here. (Why can’t people in this country have a spiritual side? If you read the Bible everyone pegs you as a fundamentalist or something, which I clearly am not.) It’s been nice for the kids to get used to Shakespearean and Biblical language. They’re intrigued by it. I have to throw my own agenda into it, naturally. Which is why I picked A Midsummer Night’s Dream for the first play we’re reading, and why I groused about Eve getting all the blame when we cracked open the Bible.

“Here we go, right out of the gate. Women have been blamed for every flippin’ thing from that point on…” Wacky Boy wants to know more about the serpent; Wacky Girl is waiting for the fairies to show up in Midsummer Night’s Dream.

I would be more than happy to pull them out of school for the rest of the year and have them start fresh in the fall. (When, I’m hoping, everyone will be lice-free. Ha! Ha! I’m funny!)

But I’ve been overruled by the other three members of the household, so back to school we go.

Want some idea of how many people were affected by the 12 kids at our school who had lice? (This is confirmed — in a one-month period, roughly mid-March through mid-April, there were 13 kids from our school sent home or kept home with lice. My Wacky Friend C rounded it to 12 ). From C:

“Figure 2 parents per child, and figure more than that, given step-families; add 24 (plus more, given blended families) sets of grandparents; 36 (just on average) sets of cousins; 24 next-door-neighbors; 6 daycare center coordinators; 4 (a guess) church
nursery or Sunday School coordinators; 6 soccer or t-ball coaches (and what about the batting helmets that are shared among all the kids?); probably 124 random friends & contacts those children have come in contact with in the past few weeks.

So, I’m guessing that about 308 people who are likely inconvenienced and/or infected.

Oh – and here’s some fun: if they all have 3 weeks of treatment in their homes, and their laundry is like mine (only worse, because it’s EVERYTHING), that’s about 124 loads of laundry over the treatment cycle…. Whew! Oh, and if they have an average of 1 sibling, then they’re looking at an enormous buying spree of lice shampoo and lotion, carpet cleaner, vacuum filters, etc. for those children. Plus the summer haircuts. So, there’s a clear economic problem with all of this.”

And from the district’s point of view? It’s just 12 kids. And one bitchy mom.


  1. Mallory says

    Anyone who says it is not a huge deal has not had to deal with it personally, period. I say, let your kids share a pillow with the prinipal, the school board, hey even Castillo. If its such a no big deal and all…

    Between the school violence and all the frickin viruses and the drama of middle school, don’t think I haven’t eyed the homeschooling option…there is even an alternative school in the Portland school district that is all “distance learning” by computer for the lesson plans and the parent home schools the rest. But I too am overruled.

    April 22nd, 2007 | #

  2. LIB says

    I have an ant infestation in my kitchen. I know that, as bugs go, ants aren’t that big of a deal. I have the ant traps and they’re almost completely gone. Yet, the ant problem TOTALY. CREEPS. ME. OUT.

    So, I don’t feel like you need to pologize AT ALL for writining another “Lice Post”. Writing about it probably helps. The LEAST we can do is read about it.

    Sending big ((hugs)) your way!!!!!

    April 23rd, 2007 | #

  3. Kelly Addison says

    Wacky Mom and others – Thank you for standing up and speaking out, you are not alone! I started a group called PAHLS (Parents Advocating Head Lice Solutions). Schools across the country, including ours in WI, have been looking for ways to reduce absenteeism thanks to the No Child Left Behind Act (Federal) and the AAP. AAP supported No-Nit Policies till this act. Our school TRIED to get rid of our head checks b/c our school nurse went to the NASN conf and was told by her mentor to get rid of them and our no-nit policies, following AAP recommendations. Well us parents are following guidelines and recommendation from “head lice experts” and the best I have found is Katie Shepherd of Lice Solutions, FL. http://www.licesolutions.org ~ only non profit treatment facility in the country, also research & study. Lice & nit removal for all income levels, help has to be there for all, infact over 60% are free or at reduced payments. So what do we do when school, State snd US Reps, DPI, Dept of Health, school boards, school admin and school nurses refuse to listen to us parents and our concerns? I attended 5 cons mtgs, a petition w/hundreds of signatures. Privacy? We do not post! Search? Atty said the only reasonable cause we need to do checks is that headlice exists! Results are few? 3 cases left unnoticed can spread like wildfire if schools don’t check, just look at KA where in April 200 students went home and 18 teachers. If we don’t check we don’t know what is there and THIS puts children and teachers at unnecessary risk of head lice! Why don’t more Legislatures and Feds do something for us? I have letters from them all, pass the buck. I will never accept head lice as a way of life nor should we, we live in the US, not a 3rd world country! How much do schools gain from federal grant monies from the No Child Left Behind Act? Why are Dept of Ed’s in this country misinterpreting the No Child Left Behind Act? I’m talking w/atty’s, civil litigation and Civil Rights. I applaud State Rep Jennifer Mann in PA for being brave enough to recognize the need for more proactive measures in keeping our kids and teachers safe-something MOST elected officials refuse to do. We all need to check and see if our schools are complying with state health code like PA. It is sick that so few care and turn a blind eye, I guess this is why its up to us to keep pressure on them. I have found atty’s to help for probono. It is tiring trying to find those to help for free, but they are there. I’ll continue to do school wide head checks and helping families for FREE in our schools since our schools are to lazy to be responsible! We do not know what’s there unless we check, period! While I certainly do not want to see any child “left behind”, I certainly do not want to see a country forced to live with head lice. Look me up in WI, I’d love to share stories and what atty’s have helped us with so far. I’m still digging into state health code…in time we WILL find the answers to this MESS and they WILL have to answer to US PARENTS! Keep good records of everything, it has helped me with the attys:)

    May 9th, 2007 | #

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