Lice and Bullying: The Importance of Eliminating the Stigma of Head Lice
Tuesday, February 5, 2013 • 5:25pm
In September 2011, in a school in Tenafly, NJ, a boy announced to a small table of children that a 9 year old girl sitting with them had recently had her hair dyed because she had lice. This incident became a test of the strict new anti-bullying laws instituted in the State of New Jersey. The boy was given a book called, "Just Kidding" and made to answer some questions about the book. His parents appealed to an Administrative Law Judge seeking an apology from the district and $50,000 in damages. They didn't win.
What this incident clearly illustrates three important facts:
1.being the "lice kid" can have social repercussions
2.a lot of parents have no idea how to treat head lice at home
3.a lot of 9 year old girls get lice
As someone who deals with families who have struggled with home lice treatment failure, I know how recurrent head lice can affect a child's self esteem. There is nothing sadder than seeing a young child melt down in tears because there are bugs in her hair. I listen to parents as they strategize and plan who they will tell, who they must tell, who they can get away with not telling. Why? The stigma of lice. The unfortunate part of this is the self-perpetuating cycle the behavior breeds.
I remember so well, the mom who stood tall at my very first PTA presentation and announced to a room full of other moms, "We had lice!" She was like the Norma Rae of Pediculosis! I like to think that her brave pronouncement impacted other moms and made them less inhibited about revealing their own families' lice problems. It happens in my office all the time...multiple families from a particular school end up sharing time together. The kids are calm, they laugh, they feel "normal" because they see their friends experiencing lice right along with them. In my office, there is no stigma. There are playdates, movies and snacks. We show kids their bugs under the microscope and turn it into a game and a science lesson. In my office, there is no crying in lice!
I believe that every child who experiences lice with lollipops and DVD's is a mom of the next generation who will not freak out when her kids come home with critters in their hair. I believe we are eliminating the stigma of lice one kid at a time. In an ideal world, people would realize that all the myths about hygiene are wrong, and they would understand clearly that lice happens to all socio-economic and racial groups, to boys and girls, to moms, dads, grandmas and grandpas too. With the tragedies we've witnessed recently, I wish people could stop for a moment and realize that this problem, while annoying and inconvenient, is not the end of the world. Recently as one mom melted down in my office proclaiming that this was the worst thing that could possibly happen, I reminded her that there are 20 moms in Connecticut who would give anything to have a child with lice right now. All of a sudden lice didn't seem so bad.
I am committed to educating parents and helping to eliminate the stigma of head lice. If your PTA/PTO would be interested in a free educational seminar, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on myths and facts about head lice, visit my website at Lice Lifters.
Lisa Rafal is a Head Lice Treatment Professional whose passion for lice treatment began when her family first encountered the problem back in 2008. In 2011, Lisa opened the first franchise location of Lice Lifters® in Clark, NJ and opened her second office in Fairfield, NJ in January 2012. Her personal missions are to educate people about head lice, how to treat the problem and most of all to keep toxic pesticides off the heads of children everywhere! Visit www.liceliftersnj.com for more information
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