Why TISD's head lice policy changed

Why TISD's head lice policy changed

Tyler ISD's decision to stop sending students with head lice home can be traced back to a single law down in Austin. It's a change that's happening all over the state. But that's no comfort for parents who have had to deal with head lice themselves.

"Whether or not it was an infectious disease, it was a horrible nuisance," TISD Parent Bill Dalton said.

It's been about a year since Dalton and his wife were fighting their daughter's case of lice at home. He said getting rid of it was expensive and time consuming.

"Just let the infection go unchecked, and the problem will be worse than having your feelings hurt," he said.

Dalton said he doesn't buy the argument that keeping a child out of class is overly stigmatizing. On Friday he kept his daughter home from school and told the school why.

"We were kind of shocked," he said. "We didn't get any fliers in, or at least that I had seen. Nothing alerting us that they were changing the policy."

At TISD the plan was to fully phase the new policy in next fall.

"[That would] give us time this summer to work on how we can communicate [the change clearly]" district spokesperson Dawn Parnell said.

But Parnell said word has gotten out early.

She said the district is developing new preventative training for students and teachers and a new system for telling parents about lice cases at school, all because of a change in the Texas Administrative Code.

"That's really where this is coming from," Parnell said. "We just have to make sure we're in compliance with all state and federal laws."

The state's Administrative Code no longer lists head lice as a communicable disease--a designation which used to be the backbone of so-called "no-nit" policies that resulted in students being sent home for head lice.

A call to the Texas Education Agency led to their spokesperson deferring to the Department of State Health Services on current policy regarding head lice in schools.

The DSHS does not recommend a "no nit" policy," the organization said in a statement. "We do recognize, however, that school districts may adopt one as a local option. DSHS does not have authority to impose a set policy regarding head lice on districts. DSHS does, however, urge school districts to ensure that its policy does not cause children to miss class."

Dalton worries policies like that are just too weak.

"Having lice is more of a stigma than being sent home for lice," he said.

Checking with quite a few school districts in and around Tyler and Longview revealed that they are all sticking with the "send them home" policy for now. However, districts in Austin and Dallas have already made the switch to keeping the kids in school.

TISD is working on something to send home with students to better explain the change to parents.


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