According to Pennsylvania schools State Code, Section 27.71 states that “a child or staff person can be excluded from school who is suspected by a physician or the school nurse of having Pediculosis Capitis(head lice)” (Chapter 27, 28 PA Code). The school nurse or physician decides on readmission to school based upon the school’s policy or specified criteria. The student or staff member can be readmitted immediately after treatment and should be reexamined by the school nurse or other specified health care practitioner seven days after the initial treatment (Chapter 2 Pa state gov policy).”
Basically, this means that children with head lice and/or nits may be excluded from school at the discretion of the school nurse. This ambiguous policy leads to a great variation in head lice policy from district to district, depending on the point of view of the administration or heath care professionals within a district or even within a school.
School Lice Policy
In Philadelphia, the school lice policy relies on aforementioned state code, “… 27.71 (11) specifically relates to head lice and provides for exclusion of students from school (public, private, parochial, Sunday, or other school or college or preschool) who have been diagnosed by a physician or are suspected of having pediculosis by the school nurse. As per Pennsylvania school code 27.71 (11) the student shall be allowed to return to either the school, childcare or other group setting immediately after first treatment. Readmission to class shall be contingent upon reexamination by the school nurse”. The Philadelphia head lice policy gives the following caveat, which suggests that the city schools are taking a more lenient approach to head lice in the schools and often do not adhere to a “no nits policy”: “Please note the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Association of School Nurses discourage “No Nit policies” because no child should miss unnecessary school time due to head lice.” Pupils may return after adequate and effective therapy, but they must be examined by School Health Services prior to re admission.
Tredyffrin/Easttown School District
As you can see below, this district has revised its school lice policy and now has a lenient policy,
“Head lice are the cause of much embarrassment, misunderstanding and unnecessary days lost from school and work. The American Academy of Pediatrics and other health and medical organizations maintain that head lice are not a health hazard, a sign of uncleanness, or responsible for the spread of any disease. The following statement attempts to clarify pediculosis (nits and head lice) management within the school environment. The Tredyffrin/Easttown School District Certified School Nurses (CSN) reviewed the District’s head lice practice in the spring of 2010 in light of current research and clinical reports published by American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the Pennsylvania Department of Health (PaDoH) and the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Based on research-based recommendations, the school district has updated its guidelines for managing nits and lice within the school setting.
- The management of nits and head lice should not disrupt the educational process.
- A student will not be excluded from school for nits unless nits are within ¼” of the scalp.
- A student with lice will be sent home for treatment. A student may return to school as soon as possible after being cleared by the school nurse if s/he has no live lice.
- Any student who was most likely to have had direct head-to-head contact with a student with live lice will be screened.
- A letter will be sent home to parents when live lice are found in their child’s classroom.
- The school nurse’s goals are to minimize school absenteeism, contain infestations, and provide appropriate health information for treatment and prevention.
What happens when a child is found to have lice?
Studies by the AAP and CDC indicate that screening for live lice has not been proven to have a significant effect on the incidence of head lice in a school community. However, individual students who were most likely to have had direct head-to-head contact with the student with live lice will be checked. A child found with live head lice will be referred to his/her parent(s)/guardian(s) for treatment. The classroom rugs in that child’s classroom will be thoroughly vacuumed. A letter will be sent to parents/guardians in the index child’s classroom.
When are nits a risk factor for hatching?
Eggs by themselves without the presence of live lice do not indicate an active infestation. Studies by the AAP and the PaDoH found that having 5 or more nits within 1/4″ inch of the scalp is a risk factor for nits hatching into live lice. If nits are found more that 1/4″ from the scalp and no live lice are found, the infestation is probably an old one and does not need to be treated. These nits usually are dead or empty and will not hatch but will instead fall off the head. Nits themselves are not contagious. According to the medical experts, the real problem is the lice, not their eggs.
What happens when a child is found to have nits?
It is recommended that students having 5 or more nits within 1/4″ of the scalp be treated as soon as possible. Studies by the AAP and CDC indicate that widespread screening for nits is not an accurate way for predicting which children will become infested, and screening for live lice has not been proven to have a significant effect on the incidence of head lice in a school community.
Will students be excluded for head lice?
No. However, a student with nits should receive appropriate attention at home.”
Upper Merion School District Has Strict “No Nit” Policy
The opposite end of the spectrum with respect to head lice policies is the Upper Merion District which states, “Your child will not be re admitted to school unless he/she is completely free of nits.”
More Information: http://www.umasd.org
Haverford Public Schools
Consistent with Upper Merion’s school head lice policy, Haverford Schools maintain a “no nit” lice policy which forbids student with lice or nits from returning to school until all clear. The district stipulates its policy as follows, “Children with lice are expected to remain out of school when child has been under treatment for 24 hours and head is treated and free of lice and nits.”
More Information: http://www.haverford.k12.pa.us
Bala Cynwyd School Lice Policy
Nearby Bala Cynwyd has a stricter head lice policy: “Our School has a No-Nits policy. If your child has head lice, we ask that your child stay home until his or her head is completely clear of nits (eggs). The School has on-hand a number of education supplies and resources to help you treat head lice, but because of the nature of the early childhood teaching environment, we have always found a No-Nits policy to be the most effective way of controlling head lice outbreaks. Pupils may return after adequate and effective therapy, but they must be examined by School Health Services prior to re admission.” Philadelphia suburb, Upper Darby also has an absolute “no nits policy”: “Children with head lice will be excluded from school until the hair has been treated and ALL of the eggs (nits) have been removed.”Learn About Our Philadelphia Lice Removal Service