Parents Angered Ticks School
Parents angered they weren't told about ticks at school
University of Florida
School district officials had Pine Tree Elementary School sprayed for ticks after the bites were discovered.
By NATALIE SHEPHERD
Published: December 15, 2009
Six students at Pine View Elementary School in Land O' Lakes were bitten by ticks this month, according to the Pasco County School District. Assistant Superintendent David Scanga thought they might have picked up the ticks on the playground, so after the school discovered the problem, the campus was sprayed to get rid of the ticks.
"Once we knew of the problem, treatment happened very quickly, and since that time there hasn't been a single case," Scanga said.
The school contacted the parents of the students who were bitten, telling them about the situation.
"These are individual cases and we called all the parents, informed them, made sure they had some guidance as to what they should do," he said.
But some parents don't feel the district did enough to protect students. The school did not send home a letter telling other parents to check their kids for ticks.
Principal Cortney Gantt sent an e-mail to staff encouraging them not to discuss the ticks with parents, writing, "Please refrain from talking about this in front of parents, as they are now in a panic and think this is an ongoing problem."
Keli Higgins has a second-grader at Pine View. She was shocked when she heard about the ticks.
"That's scary, that's terrible," she said. "We're a little shocked. Now, when my son gets home, I'm going to check and see if he's got ticks."
Higgins said she's used to bugs and wildlife near her Pasco County home, but worries about the threat of Lyme disease, which can be carried by ticks.
"If we'd have gotten a letter, we would have checked him out. And I would have called the school to at least ask some questions, like, I would have asked anything. I would have just wanted to know what's going on," Higgins said.
When Higgins heard about the tick problem, she said her No. 1 concern was Lyme disease.
According to the University of Florida, there is a low risk of Lyme disease infection in Florida. There have been 30-50 cases diagnosed per year, but half of those are thought to have been contracted outside the state. Lyme disease is more prevalent in the Northeast; New York, for example, has as many as 5,000 cases each year.
Symptoms included a red, bulls-eye mark where the bite occurred, as well as other flu-like symptoms, which show up within three days to three weeks of the bite.
The school district stands by the principal's decision not to send a letter home with students. Scanga said the district decided to deal with parents on a case-by-case basis.
"In this particular situation, it wasn't large numbers, it was very small numbers and they were dealt with as individual incidences," he said.
Scanga compared the tick infestation to any other biting or stinging bugs that may turn up on the playground.
"We have on our school campuses where you get wasps or you get red ants or you get ticks," he said. "And when that happens you try to isolate the area and you do a treatment to eradicate them."
Scanga said there haven't been any more ticks on campus since they sprayed for the bugs.
Higgins, however, said the school should have notified parents, just to be safe.
"They seem to send a letter home for everything, anything else," she said. "But to not send a letter home for that, that's wrong."
Reporter Natalie Shepherd can be reached at (813) 225-2703.