Head lice policies have changed at several schools, causing parents to complain. Most elementary schools periodically check students for lice. If the insects are found, the child is sent home until the infestation is gone. Many schools send letters home, informing other parents and offering tips to detect and eliminate the bugs.
Schools in at least six states have decided to keep the children in school, and have stopped informing other parents. Although they cite numerous reasons for the change, a majority of the schools are attempting to prevent absence and protect privacy.
As reported by ABC News, the states that have relaxed their policies include California, Florida, Nebraska, New Mexico, South Carolina, and Tennessee. Most of the states changed their policies when the Academy of Pediatrics updated their guidelines for children with head lice.
In 2010, the AAP revised their guidelines, stating that children who are infected with the parasitic insects can and should be allowed to remain in school. In 2011, The National Association of School Nurses revised their guidelines to reflect the AAP’s recommendation.
The Centers for Disease Control said the bugs are certainly an annoyance. However, they are not hazardous to the health, as they do not carry any disease. They further explain that the nits, or eggs, are unlikely to be transferred from one person to another.
In an interview with Seattle Pi, school nurse Deborah Pontius said strict policies are outdated and unnecessary. She said by the time the insects are detected, other students have already been exposed. Therefore, sending the student home would not prevent further infestation.
Pontius also explains that the notes are unnecessary as “it gets out who had lice,” so parents will most likely learn about the situations from their children. The nurse said the best way to prevent outbreaks is for parents to check their children’s hair at least once per week.
The National Pediculosis Association, which researches head lice infestations, disagrees with the new policies. Spokeswoman Deborah Altschuler said the weakened policies are dismissing the fact that the insects are a “communicable parasitic disease.” She further explains that they undermine “parental values for wellness and children’s health.”
Head lice are a common problem among young children who attend school. Many parents appreciate schools’ efforts to prevent serious outbreaks. Unfortunately, some states have dramatically changed their policies.
More information about identifying and treating head lice: Here
[Image via Wikimedia]