In LiceDoctors’ continuing efforts to report to you about school head lice policies by state across the country, what we have learned about California is that it is the first state that we have come upon in our search to not only recommend “no nit” policies in the schools, but also to suggest that schools allow students with live bugs to remain in school til the end of the school day. While it is up to the individual school districts to set their own policies, the state’s recommendations are often followed by school districts.
In fact, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) reports that. “Head lice, while a significant social problem, do not transmit disease to humans.” Traditionally, head lice policies in schools emphasized that a child infested with head lice could not return to school until no nits were found in their hair (“no-nit” policy). There is no evidence that a no-nit policy prevents or shortens lengths of outbreaks (Pollack et al., 2000, Williams et al., 2001). The American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Association of School Nurses, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are all opponents of no-nit policies (Frankowski and Weiner, 2002; Schoessler, 2004). Furthermore, the “International Guidelines for Effective Control of Head Louse Infestations” state that “the no nit policy is unjust as it is based on misinformation rather than objective science and should be discontinued.” (Mumcuoglu, 2007) CDPH recommends a no-lice policy.”
Children With Lice Allowed To Stay In CA Schools Until End Of Day
The state Department of Health goes further than other states that recommend “no nit” policies in recommending that children with head lice be allowed to stay in school until the end of the school day. “ If lice are seen on a child at school the parents should be called to pick up the child at the end of the school day and be given a copy of the brochure “A Parent’s Guide to Head Lice”. At home, all members of the family must be checked for head lice. This policy allows the parent to treat the child overnight. The day following treatment, the child should be re-examined and admitted to class. If the child is still infested, then the parent should be re-contacted. While classroom or school-wide notification is not recommended after head lice have been detected in a student, this policy is at the discretion of the school nurse or administration.”
What this means is that the CDPH is recommending that children with active cases of head lice be allowed to remain in school throughout the day and further that the school need not alert parents to any active cases found in the school. This obviously has ramifications for children in public schools who are exposed to head lice. The burden is certainly on the parents to be highly vigilant with their children regarding detecting head lice (we know how difficult that is).
San Diego Schools Head Lice Policy
San Diego public schools’ policy states that, “Children with identified live head lice are referred for treatment at the end of the school day. Until the end of the school day, avoid activity that includes head-to-head contact with other children or sharing of any headgear.” This policy is in sync with the California state guidelines. Children are allowed to return to school after the “child has received the treatment recommended by the child’s health professional. A trained staff member rechecks the student before returning to class.”
Encinitas Schools Head Lice Policy
In nearby Encinitas, however, the school district maintains that children with nits or lice should be excluded from school. “Readmission (to school is) permitted after parent has indicated the treatment used and been re-examined by authorized school staff verifying all lice/nits are removed.”
Carlsbad Schools Head Lice Policy
In Carlsbad, CA, the policy states that, “If lice are found, the student shall be excluded from attendance and parents/guardians informed about recommended treatment procedures and sources of further information. An excluded student may return to school after an effective treatment has been applied per the directions on the product. Nits need to be removed manually.” You can see from the Carlsbad and Encinitas policies that districts adopt nuanced versions of head lice policies, with differences noted among districts.
Oceanside Schools Head Lice Policy
In Oceanside, the “district policy states that students who are found with live lice will be sent home immediately for treatment”. Likewise, in Escondido, “If a student is found with active, adult head lice, he/she shall be excluded from attendance. The student shall be allowed to return to school the next day and shall be checked by the nurse or designee before returning to class. Once he/she is determined to be free of lice, the student shall be rechecked weekly for up to six weeks.” In contrast to the state’s department of health recommendations, Escondido’s policy says that, “In consultation with the school nurse, the principal may also send information about head lice home to all parents/guardians of the students in that class.”
Sacramento Schools Head Lice Policy
In September 2010, the school board in Sacramento, California changed the district’s head lice policy. Up until that point, the district maintained a “no nit policy”. Since the Center for Disease Control, American Academy of Pediatrics, National Association of School Nurses, and the California Department of Public Health concurred that “no nit” policies were not recommended, the Sacramento school board voted to allow students with head lice to return to school after treatment options have been used.
San Jose School District: No nit policy
Unlike the California Lice policy, in San Jose, when a student has head lice/nits (eggs), the studentʼs parent is contacted and the student is sent home from school. The School Health Office will provide the parent with information regarding head lice, treatment, readmission requirements and resources for treatment. The student may return to school the following day if all nits have been removed from the hair. The student’s head will be examined before he/she can return to the classroom. If the student returns to school and has nits remaining in his/her hair, the student will be excluded from school. At the elementary schools, notices are sent home every time there is a new case reported.
In Palo Alto, parents are called to pick up their child if live lice or previously untreated nits are found. Then before returning to the classroom, the parent/guardian must take the child to the school office for a head check before re-admission and will be sent home if live lice are found.
Sunnyvale School District Lice policy
In Sunnyvale as well as many other California school districts, children with lice will not be readmitted to school without a signed form regarding proof of eradication.
Berkeley Head Lice Policy
In Berkeley a student with active, adult head lice will be excluded from attendance and will be allowed to return after he/she is checked by the school nurse or official and is free of active adult head lice.
West Contra Costa Head Lice Policy
In West Contra Costa if school personnel suspect that a student has head lice, they refer to the school office where office staff will check for evidence of live lice. If live lice are found, the student’s parent are called to take the student home and given the “Dear Parent” exclusion letter. The student will be excluded from school until he/she is treated and no live lice are found. Additionally the “Dear Parent” exposure letter will be sent home with the classmates of the student with head lice.
Marin County Head Lice Release Form
The schools in Marin require parents to fill out and sign a form ensuring that the lice and nits have been eradicated from the child; all family members have been examined ad treated as necessary and that people/daycares/schools/carpools/friends/etc. whom the child has had contact with in two weeks have been notified.
To conclude, the head lice policies in California do vary from school to school. We have included some in this blog. You can check out your school policy on line. In general, however, California school district policies tend to be more forgiving of head lice and nits, than is the norm in other states.
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