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NYC School Head Lice Policy Causing Heated Debates

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Should children with head lice and or eggs (nits) be allowed to go to school? The topic is one facing school districts across the country. It is a hot topic among parents, many of whom have dealt with the growing problem of head lice with their children and or fear that their children will contract a case of it from classmates. Parents whose kids have missed days of school due to head lice infestations are highly frustrated as are parents who have spent money and/or time eradicating lice only to have their child re-infested from a classmate.

Until recent years, almost every public school system had a “no nit” policy in place. This meant that if a child was discovered to have lice or nits, he or she was sent home from school.

The General Lice Policy

Schools in New York City have a “No Head Lice” policy. Those that have live lice in their hair are not allowed to attend school until they are officially lice-free. If a student were to have nits, they are allowed to remain in school. Students can return to school as soon as they are treated. Upon returning to school, the student will be checked by designated school personnel. Some schools will require you to come back with a clearance certificate which can be provided to you by the company that is treating you upon request. Students will again be checked by a school worker 14 days after the treatment to confirm that there are still no live lice.

According to CDC Head Lice Information for Schools,

Students diagnosed with live head lice do not need to be sent home early from school; they can go home at the end of the day, be treated, and return to class after appropriate treatment has begun. Nits may persist after treatment, but successful treatment should kill crawling lice. (Source: CDC )

The “No Nit” Policy

The “no nit” policy states that students may not attend school with nits (also known as lice eggs) in their hair. In truth, what happens depends on the person who is checking for the lice. Some may pick out several nits and let the child stay in school while others may have the child leave the school if they have only one nit. Again, what happens depends on who is checking the child for lice.

The “No Live Lice” Policy

The “no live lice” policy states that those with nits can stay in school. Although students with living bugs will be sent home. Just like with the last policy, there is room for interpretation. In some schools, students that have living bugs will be allowed to remain in school until the school day ends and then will be sent home to be treated. They will not be allowed back until the case has been treated. In different circumstances, children with live lice will be sent home immediately.

The “Live Lice and Nits” Policy

This last policy is quite lenient. This policy allows for students with live lice and nits to remain in school. In most cases, schools with this policy inform the parents of the students on how to do their best to keep away lice.

Why to Stay Away From “No Nit” Policies

Some organizations like the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the American Association of Pediatrics (AAP) and the National Association of School Nurses (NASN) advise to stay away from “No Nit” policies for several reasons.

  • This policy causes lots of unnecessary absences.
  • Nits are often misdiagnosed by non-professional lice specialists such as school nurses.
  • Lots nits are more than ¼ inch from the scalp. These nits are usually not going to hatch and will most likely stay as casings (also known as empty shells.
  • Nits are not contagious.

Lice Free Noggins View on This Lousy Situation

Schools should maintain a “no nit” policy while applying the rule of logic. It is not logical for schools to allow students who are infested with bugs to return to the class room. Parents do not want to send their kids into a school where students are infested with lice, as lice are so contagious. Nits, on the other hand, are not contagious. When a child is treated for head lice by a reputable professional, the child is at very low risk of being contagious even if a few nits remain on the hair. (Nits are not contagious—only mature bugs are). The reason that we support “no nit” policies is that you don’t know when those nits will hatch and bugs will emerge. Baby bugs are not contagious until they mature. If just a few nits remain in the hair, it is safe for child to return to school, assuming that she is doing some follow-up plan at home (caveat: chemical treatments are generally ineffective in eradicating nits and killing super lice). A child who is heavily infested with nits is just too at risk of transmitting lice when those nits hatch. Some schools have tried abolishing “no nit” policies only to return to them as a better option. Given the prevalence of head lice in schools and the visceral reaction it causes among parents versus the number of missed days of school, it appears likely that this issue will continue to be debated for years to come.

Lice Free Noggins is here to help you with lice treatment in NYC tri-state area. If you learn that your child has lice or if you have any questions, please call us and we will help you!

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