One can only imagine what would have been going through a visitor’s mind on Monday, Oct. 7. Marian girls crowded the attendance office and walked through the halls with sweatshirt hoods cinched tight, careful not to get too close to the person next to them.
Was there an intruder in the building? Was there a disease outbreak? The only thing spreading through Marian on that Monday morning were rumors—and a few lice.
A variety of rumors circulated about the source of the lice. Some claimed that the lice started with a certain individual, the sophomore class, or the dance team. “Because I’m on dance team, people probably expected that I had lice. Just because one person might have had it, doesn’t mean the whole team did,” freshman dance team member, Jenna Grote, said. Because there are many rumors, it is nearly impossible to pinpoint exactly how the lice got to Marian, nor does it matter.
Though it is unknown how the lice reached Marian, the principal, Mrs. Susie Sullivan has heard of several cases of lice at Omaha schools. These schools include three or four different grade schools, as well as Omaha Burke and Duchesne Academy.
A nurse from the Visiting Nurse Association was brought in to help check the heads of Marian girls for lice. The nurse came to Marian four times over two weeks, just to be cautious.
“The line of girls to be checked was so long that it extended down the hallway,” front office supervisor, Mrs. Diane Hancock, said. Many girls were checked, but only five were sent home as a precaution to be treated for lice.
Of these five girls, two did not actually have lice. Marian did not officially hear back from the other three, but all potentially infected students have returned to school.
Many rumors exaggerated the number of girls that actually got sent home. “I was walking down the hallway and overheard someone say 85 girls were sent home,” Sullivan said. Even though only five girls were actually sent home, bringing in the nurse helped ease the frenzy.
In addition to checking heads, Marian had the locker rooms cleaned thoroughly. Though lice are most commonly spread through head-to-head contact, cleaning the locker rooms was a good precautionary measure that also helped settle everyone down.
As the variety of rumors about the lice increased, so did the amount of panic. “The attendance office was extremely busy between students getting checked and hundreds of parents calling,” Sullivan said. There was also an unusual amount of girls that went home sick. According to Hancock, the absentee rate was the highest it has been all school year.
Lice are more common among grade schools, but Sullivan has heard of a popular trend that might be causing an increased presence of lice in high schools and college campuses: the selfie. Some think it may sound crazy that taking a selfie can heighten the chances of getting lice, but it makes sense. When people take selfies, they often pose with their head right next to someone else’s. This direct head-to-head contact makes it easier for lice to spread.
Regardless of how the lice made their way through the doors of Marian, the issue can be put to rest. The girls who needed treatment have been treated, and many others went out to buy treatment, even if they didn’t need it. One Walgreens employee even asked a girl buying lice treatment if she went to Marian.
With that being said, it is safe to say that Marian has taken all of the necessary steps to resolve the issue. “I don’t think we should worry about it,” Sullivan said. Just stay diligent about not sharing brushes and sweatshirts.”