School head lice policies are determined on a district by district basis. Very often neighboring towns have very different policies regarding infested students entry into schools. No place is more illustrative of this point than Arizona school districts. The Arizona Department of Health Services advocates for a qualified “no nit” policy in schools. The Department of Health states, ” No-nit policies are important today in the light of increasing reports of pediculicide treatment failure. However, no-nit policies should be enforced with discretion.
Even the most diligent parents will miss a few nits after long bouts of nit- picking. It is not justifiable to exclude a child from school based on the presence of a few “old” nits that are far removed from scalp line…On the other hand, finding “new nits” close to the scalp, or finding many nits (indicating that the parent did a poor job of nitpicking) may be enough justification to send a child home again.”
This advice is gray enough that the Phoenix school system and neighboring Scottsdale school district have very different head lice policies.
Phoenix School District – No Nit Policy
The Phoenix school district has an absolute “no nit” policy.
“Any pupil having head lice will be sent home. The child will be excluded from school until the child’s hair is free of lice and nits.The pupil,upon returning to school,must be accompanied by an adult and must report to the nurse’s office where a detailed examination will be made. If there is no evidence of active lice or nits the nurse will issue her signed approval of reentry.”
Scottsdale School District – Same Nit Policy As CDC
To the contrary the Scottsdale public school district follows the guidelines of the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the National Association of Pediatricians.
“No disease is associated with head lice, and in-school transmission is considered to be rare. It is the position of the CDC, NASN and SUSD that the management of pediculosis should NOT disrupt the educational process. Students with nits only should NOT be excluded from school, although further monitoring for signs of re-infestation is appropriate.”
Gilbert School District – No Nit Policy
The Gilbert Arizona school district maintains a head lice policy that is similar to that of the Phoenix school district. “No students detected with live lice are allowed to remain at school.” GPS continues to maintain a “no-nit” policy that states “no student may attend school if nits (egg sack) are detected on the hair shaft”. The student must be readmitted to school via the health office only after a head inspection post-treatment for lice. Frequent classroom head checks are not recommended or effective.”
Chandler School District
The Chandler schools, like Phoenix and Gilbert maintain a “no nit” policy, stating that “children with nits are not allowed to return to school until they are gone”. Susan Eissinger, associate superintendent for instructional services for the Chandler Unified School District stated that in fact, “There really isn’t” any way to know if a child has nits and a parent doesn’t tell school officials, she said. “How would we know?” It is, therefore, difficult to enforce the policy.
There have been some complaints among parents that “many school officials don’t send home letters to parents when there is even one case of head lice in their child’s class. That leaves parents unaware and unable to check their own child unless he or she has been infested themselves.
Eissinger states that, the rule of thumb is if you have 10 percent of a classroom affected” the school notifies parents of the children in that classroom. If it’s one case, and it’s just one isolated case” you don’t,
Mesa Schools Policy
The head lice policy is Mesa is a bit vague as stated on the web site. “Students must be free of head lice. It is important for parents to routinely check their children’s hair for lice. Lice are small insects about the size of sesame seeds. Nits are tiny yellowish-white oval eggs attached to the hair. Nits don’t come off easily like dandruff or lint.
When head lice are identified at school, the health office notifies parents of affected students and provides information on treatment of the hair and the household. Students may not return to school until treatment has commenced and the student is free of symptoms.” There is no mention of a ‘no nit policy” on the site.
Ask Your School To Be Safe About Head Lice Policy
The best advice that we at LiceDoctors can give you is find out from your school what your district head lice policy is. It is still a very controversial topic, with no easy answers. Most school districts list their head lice policy on the school website.