State will allow students with head lice to remain at some schools

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Students with head lice, or ukus, will not be sent home from school, which is raising concerns that the infestation could spread.

Parents received a letter saying some schools will have new procedures when dealing with the problem.

A viewer notified us using the Report It feature on our website.

The letter states all students will remain in school regardless of the presence of ukus. The new protocols will take effect next school year.

The Hawaii Department of Education says it’s following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but these new procedures aren’t sitting well with some parents.

“I was very upset with the letter. It’s disgusting to me,” said parent Keesha Boyer.

Boyer has three sons that go to Kalihi Kai Elementary and she’s upset that the school will not send students home.

The letter she received says the parent of the student with lice will be notified and given the option of picking up the child, but if they can’t or don’t want to, “The student will go back to class and remain in school until the end of the school day.”

“He’s going to come home and I’m going to have to treat it, spend hours treating my household, me, my kids, my furniture, my carpet. It gets everywhere. And then go to school the next day and catch it again? Am I really gonna be doing this constantly?” Boyer said.

We got a copy of the letter that was sent to parents. It says that students sent home for ukus contribute significantly to chronic absenteeism.

KHON2 asked the DOE how much class time students have missed because of lice, and officials said they didn’t keep such data.

Boyer believes keeping students with lice in the classroom is counter-productive.

“Is the kid really going to sit there and be comfortable learning, knowing that he has ukus in his head and scratching and going crazy? His focus is not going to be on the learning,” she said.

We went to the DOE to find out why these procedures are being implemented, but a spokeswoman said no one was available to provide that information.

The state health department says ukus are not a health hazard and are not responsible for the spread of any disease.

For now, the procedures are only for some schools, including Kalihi, Kaimuki, and East Oahu, known as the Farrington-Kalani-Kaiser Complex.

We brought these new procedures up with Dr. Kalani Brady from the John A. Burns School of Medicine and he says parents should not be alarmed.

“What we’ve discovered in observation is the transmission of ukus is not really high, and that’s why the DOE has made that recommendation,” Brady said.

As far as why the new procedures will only be used in some schools, we’re still waiting to get that answer from the DOE.

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