Misha Gervais forced her sons to shave their heads after pesky little bugs wouldn’t leave them alone.
Now the West Shore mother is circulating a petition to have the Sooke School District change its policy and send children with lice home. It has 250 names so far.
“We don’t send children home. Lice are a social issue not a health issue.” said Roberta Kubik, assistant superintendent for School District 62.
The district has a lice policy that includes offering support to families dealing with lice. The school district purchased some lice combs from Europe (that they say are most effective) and lend them out.
“We will help out families who need a little extra support,” Kubik said. “We have 9,000 children in the district, it can be a problem.”
While there is no rhyme or reason, Kubik said, September, January and March tend to have more cases of lice occurring in schools.
Happy Valley elementary students Parker and Tegan Naus caught the parasite three times this September.
The brothers were not thrilled when their mother and hairstylist pulled out the clippers in frustration.
“I did not like it when my mother shaved my head,” said Tegan, 8, who prior the haircut sported shoulder-length hair. He plans to grow it out again.
Parker, 10, only a had few inches of hair and said he’d rather have a shaved head than lice, but wouldn’t have chosen the haircut.
The cuts were a last resort after spending many hours using lice shampoos and cleaning anything potentially infected.
“It doesn’t feel very good when my mom gets the lice of my hair,” said Tegan, talking about the lice shampoos and combing method.
“My boys know not to touch heads, they are not allowed to share hats. If they are playing floor hockey at school they have to bring their own helmets from home or they don’t get to play,” Misha said.
Knowing first-hand the effort it takes to treat lice she is sympathetic to other families and has given lice treatment products and even offered free haircuts to children at the school to help with the problem.
Compounding the problem, is a differing policy in the before- and after-school care program. They couldn’t return until the lice was gone.
“I had to cancel on my clients to pick up my children, but I didn’t want the lice to spread,” Misha said. “Working in a salon, if someone comes in with lice you have to close the salon.”
At Happy Campers it’s policy to send kids with lice home.
“We do send kids home, we don’t want it to spread,” said Lucy-Ann Smith, Happy Campers owner. “Whenever a kid with lice is here, we have to sanitize the entire facility.”
Happy Campers has 12 facilities on the West Shore and they regularly check children for lice.
Smith, also a mother of three, understands the struggles of dealing with lice.
“I know how much sterilization is involved,” she said. “I was up until two in the morning vacuuming.”
Misha hopes her petition will have the Sooke School District adopt policies from other child care providers forcing parents to deal with the issue sooner, by having children sent home.
Sometimes school districts including the Sooke district call in public health nurses to help families dealing with lice.
“Lice don’t hop or jump,” said Maureen Rowan, West Shore public health clinical co-ordinator of West Shore public health.
Island Health has no official policy for lice in schools and Rowan explained it’s up to each individual school district on how they choose to handle it.
“Head lice is not a serious disease, they are a nuisance,” Rowan said. “Head lice have been here since the bog man.”
Island Health suggests parents use the “wet combing method,” she said.
Wet combing is when you cover the infected head with a large amount of conditioner. It will suffocate the lice which can then be combed out with a special lice comb. It should be continued every four days for two weeks.
The combing catches adult lice and is repeated to catch all the adults as eggs hatch ensuring no more eggs can be laid.
“You need to interrupt the cycle,” Rowan said.