NORWAY — A local couple said parents are not being notified of lice outbreaks in SAD 17.

“This is crazy. As a parent, I want to know if there is a problem,” said Angela Bonville, whose 11-year-old daughter came home from the Guy E. Rowe School in Norway this week with nits, or lice eggs, in her hair.

She is not the only victim, Bonville said. She saw nits and lice in several other childen’s hair on the school playground, she said.

Bonville and her husband, Dennis, said they spent more than $100 on products to treat lice and to launder everything that might be infested.

Some parents say they are spending hundreds, or even more than $1,000, dealing with the outbreaks.

“(The children) go back to school and then it happens again. I’m not rich,” Bonville said.

The parasitic insects lay very small eggs at the base of the hair shaft and once hatched they begin to move. The spread from close personal contact.

“When I was in school, we put our head down once a week. We had head checks. I don’t know what’s changed,” said Bonville, a former Biddeford public school student.

Superintendent Rick Colpitts and Jane Morse, special education director who supervises the district nursing staff, said the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention has changed how lice in the schools should be handled.

“Now we can’t keep kids out. We only can if we see live critters, not just the eggs,” Colpitts said.

In 2002, the Maine Department of Education sent a notice to school administrators saying the Maine School Health Advisory Committee had developed new recommendations for schools responding to students with head lice.

According to that memo, which is still in effect, the significant changes in the treatment recommendations included not immediately excluding children who have head lice from school and allowing them to remain the day.

In that case, the recommendation states, parents should be contacted and informed of the need for treatment.

It is not recommended that head checks for lice be done.

The recommendation further states that students should be allowed to return to school after treatment has begun.

Morse said there always are issues with lice in any school but she has not heard that there is a current specific outbreak in any particular SAD 17 school.

“It’s been a few years since we sent kids home (with lice,)” Morse said.

She said if there is a problem with a child, the parents are notified and if a widespread infestation occurred, necessary notification would take place.

“The nursing staff works closely with parents, especially if they can’t afford treatments. There are resources,” she said.

The custodial staff is diligent about cleaning but because lice spread from head to head, young students in particular may be more prone to picking it up, she said.

Head lice is common worldwide, said Dr. Sheila Pinette, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to information from the Maine CDC, head lice are spread by direct contact with the hair of an affected person. Being spread by contact with combs, brushes or hats is uncommon, but can happen. Head lice move by crawling; they cannot jump or fly.

Parents say they need to be notified if there is a problem with nits or lice in school.

“They need to send a memo home,” Bonville said.

Pinette agrees.

“I understand where parents are coming from,” she said.

Pinette said there are no regulations about when parents should be notified about a lice infestation. The decision is left to the school board in each district, because the problem is considered merely a public nuisance.

Parents need to be aggressive in dealing with lice, she said. Prescription rather than non-prescription hair shampoos are recommended and a lice comb is a must. It is also “a good idea” not to share combs, hats and other items, even though lice eggs usually die within a day or two, Pinette said.

“The biggest pain is treating them,” she said. While many will react well to a one-time treatment, others needs more. Whatever has come into contact with the lice should be washed in hot water. High settings on dryers will usually kill the eggs within five minutes, she said.

Lice treatments are expensive but Pinette stressed that parents should not feel stigmatized by the infestation and should talk to their doctors or pharmacists about treatment options.

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