Elementary school says support, education led to drop in head lice cases


Keeping students with head lice, or ukus, in school may not be popular with parents and teachers.

But there are some schools who are getting better at dealing with it.

We went to Palolo Elementary School, where ukus had been a problem for years.

But it’s gotten better, and school officials say they’ve also taken away some of the stigma with getting the infestation.

The principal and the health aide of the school admit their solution won’t work for other schools, but it helps to have a support system not just for the kids but also their families.

The state departments of education and health changed the policy last school year to try to cut down on kids missing school time.

HSTA, the public school teachers’ union, told us it puts teachers in a bad position. We’ve learned that some teachers are told by their principal to separate a student with ukus in the classroom, leading to more shame for the child.

At Palolo Elementary, the child is urged to go back to class, but not separated.

“Some of them may feel embarrassed,” said principal Holly Kiyonaga. “If they feel embarrassed, there’s a lot of other things we need to take a look at. We have to counsel them, talk to them that they should go back to class.”

Officials at Palolo Elementary School say they’ve actually had fewer cases of ukus since the policy was changed, and they’ve done that by reaching out to the students as well as their families.

Staff try not put too much attention when a child has ukus. Teachers usually send them to the health room during lunch or recess instead of in the middle of class.

“Children come up during recess all the time,” said health aide Sherry Tanna, “so it’s not like everybody knows, ‘Oh my God, she’s going up for ukus’ or ‘he’s going up for ukus.'”

There’s also regular conversation with the children about the importance of not making others feel ashamed. Along with that, practical lessons on prevention.

“Maybe the best thing we should do is talk to our children, and educate them, and let them know personal space is good. Tell them about how it’s transferred. Tell them to protect themselves,” said Tanna.

School officials say they’re dealing with different cultures here, so families have different perspectives.

“That’s all a part of accepting each other and being accepting of differences. That’s part of our core values. That’s part of teaching students,” said Kiyonaga.

Kiyonaga says the new policy does give schools more flexibility. Now, it’s up to the schools to make the best choices for their community.

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