Each state has its own guidelines regarding allowing children back into school with head lice or nits. Some schools have a “no nit” while other schools do not. According to guidelines published in 2004 by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, children who have had a head lice treatment “should not be excluded from school if nits are present (“no-nit” policies are discouraged). Nits found on the hair shaft more than a quarter inch from the scalp are likely already hatched or dead.” Since this is not a mandate but rather a recommendation, some schools have stricter head lice guidelines regarding admission to schools with head lice and some schools are lenient and allow students with lice back into school.
Some Confusion About Policy In Denver and Boulder
There is much confusion among parents in the Denver and Boulder areas regarding their school district’s policy when it comes to head lice. Some schools allow children to return after head lice are discovered in the hair, with a note from a doctor’s office or a head lice professional saying that the child is clear. Other districts have a stringent “no nit” policy that prohibits children from returning to school if there is even a single nit in the hair. Still other schools allow children back into school if there are nits but no live bugs. Then there are other schools where the nurses will readmit students if there are a few1 or 2 nits but not more.
While the American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended that schools eliminate “no nit” policies, that is just a suggestion. It is up to the individual school districts or cities or even states to mandate what the school head lice policy is. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment states that it doesn’t regulate lice policies on K-12 public schools, only preschools and daycares; however, it makes recommendations to school districts about how cases of head lice should be managed..
Colorado State Recommendation
The Colorado state recommendation is as follows: parents are notified that lice was found in their child’s classroom and information about how to identify and treat lice is sent home. The recommendation goes on to say that infected students should be removed from the class until after the first round of treatment.
Different Schools – Different Head Lice Policies
Denver School Lice Policy
Denver schools maintain that children with nits may remain in school the day the case is identified and must then go home and be treated. The child will be re-admitted to class the next day, after treatment.
The Englewood School District follows the advice of the National Association of School Nurse guidelines, which state an infected child should not be removed from class. There is no requirement that a letter be sent home to parents apprising them of the case in the grade. At the end of 2011 there was a big debate in the district as nine children were allowed into school with lice. Parents took issue with the school district arguing that they did not want their non-infested children exposed to children who have head lice.
RE-1 Valley School District in northeast Colorado has one of the most lenient head lice policies in the country. Students are not sent home from school if they have bugs or nits. The district maintains that head lice are a nuisance but not a health risk.
Conversely, Golden, Colorado schools have a strict no-nit policy. The policy states that “Children with head lice will be excluded from school until the hair has been treated and ALL of the eggs (nits) have been removed.”
The bottom line is each school district has its own policy. In general Colorado tends to be more lenient regarding admission to school with head lice, however it is up to you to contact your school nurse to find out what your individual school district policy is.
Boulder School Lice Policy
Boulder schools have a very general statement on the web site saying that students are allowed to return “after treatment”. In addition, the district states, “All families should check for head lice weekly and treat students with a proven method if lice or nits are found. If you discover lice/nits, please notify the office ASAP so that extra attention can be given to cleaning and lice management in your child’s classroom and common areas. Quick action will help prevent a widespread outbreak. The health room and office staff will gladly answer questions about identifying lice/nits and will check anyone’s head.”
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