The American Academy of Pediatrics as well as the National Association of School Nurses both advise against excluding a child with lice from school. Attendance at school is critical to a child’s academic success. Excluding a child from school because of a head lice infestation is futile as far as preventing the transmission of lice to other children. As this school of thought runs contrary to what many people have historically believed about lice, treatment and the potential for transmission, the administrators at Valley Central School District would like to share this informative article that was recently published in the New York State School Boards Association’s newsletter that clarifies some common misconceptions about head lice.
Head lice are not known to cause disease. Research has shown that the survival of head lice when not on the head is usually less than one day, and the eggs can only hatch when incubated by body heat found near the scalp. Therefore, infestation of school or classroom is highly unlikely since they are closed for days every weekend.
If a student is checked by the nurse and found to have eggs or “nits”, the parents are notified and the student is allowed to remain in school. If a student is found to have live lice, the parents are notified and must treat the student.
Communication between school personnel and parents highlighting cases of head lice (e.g. "head lice outbreak letters") has been shown to increase community anxiety, increase social stigma causing embarrassment of affected infested students, and puts student's rights to confidentiality at risk. Therefore it is not our procedure to send these types of letters home. Additionally a parent may check their children that night and find them to be “nit” free only to find out several days later that there is an infestation. Again, due diligence on the part of the parent, checking their children frequently, is the most important preventative action they can take, as treatment is most effective at the first sign of lice.
Parents may read information on identification and treatment of head lice to learn how to identify head lice. Parents may also read about lice on the Center for Disease Control's website.