Updated on July 23, 2020
In Prince George's County, students with lice are still sent home, as they are in Washington, Fairfax County and Montgomery County. On the other hand, Arlington County lets children stay in the classroom even if they've got lice. "I don't think you should leave them suffering, scratching and itching; they're going to be uncomfortable," Graham said. The National Pediculosis Association is opposed to relaxing bans on lice and blames the updated policies for spreading the bugs. "The new lice policy throws parental values for wellness and children's health under the bus," says Deborah Altschuler, head of the Newton-based group. "It fosters complacency about head lice by minimizing its importance as a communicable parasitic disease." The association says lice treatment shampoos are pesticides that are not safe for children and not 100 percent effective. The group instead urges parents to screen regularly and use a special comb to manually remove lice and nits from a child's hair. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that there are 6 million to 12 million head lice infestations each year in the United States among children 3 to 11 years old. While itchy and unpleasant, health experts say lice don't spread disease and are not a health hazard. The American Academy of Pediatrics updated its guidelines in 2010 to adopt a "do not exclude" infested students recommendation for schools dealing with head lice. The National Association of School Nurses revised its position the following year. In its guidance, the association said children found with live head lice should remain in class but be discouraged from close direct head contact with others. The school nurse should contact the parent to discuss treatment. The association doesn't have figures on how many schools have adopted less restrictive policies. It varies by state and often by school district. The ways in which schools manage head lice have been changing over the last couple of decades. It used to be that schools wouldn't allow children to return to the classroom until all the lice and the nits were removed. The academy has long encouraged schools to discontinue "no-nit" policies. The itty-bitty nits - which can often be confused with dandruff - cement themselves to the hair shaft, making removal difficult. The CDC says the nits are "very unlikely to be transferred successfully to other people" - and many schools have dropped their no-nit policies. But supporters of no-nit rules, such as the National Pediculosis Association, say the eggs will hatch new lice and need to be removed from a child's hair to be considered lice free. Learn more at: www.wjla.com
School Lice Policies in Fairfax County, Virginia and Surrounding Areas
In general, school districts in Northern Virginia have dropped “no nit” policies and now allow students with nits to enter school. These policies have been adopted in accordance with recommendations from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the National Association of School Nurses (NASN).
Fairfax School District
The district permits children with nits to remain in school as stated on the district web site: “Outbreaks of head lice are common among children in schools and day care, affecting all social and economic groups. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), current evidence does not support classroom or school-wide screening for head lice to reduce the number of head lice infestations among school children. Excluding children from school because of head lice is not recommended. Students diagnosed with live head lice should be treated and then be allowed to return to class. “No-nits” policies that require a student to be free of nits before they can return to school are not recommended.” Learn more at www.fcps.edu.
Arlington School District
Schools in Arlington, Virginia also have dropped “no nit” policies; they issued the following policy in 2013: “In August 2013 the School Health Bureau completed a review of the latest information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the National Association of School Nurses regarding head lice in schools. Updated recommendations and best practices are summarized below.
Facts about Head Lice
Head lice move by crawling; they cannot hop or fly. Head lice are spread by direct contact with the hair of an infested person. Anyone who comes into head-to-head contact with someone who already has head lice is at greatest risk. This most commonly occurs at sleepovers and camps.Sharing of personal clothing and items should be discouraged as this can transmit head lice. This includes hats, scarves, and coats, or personal items such as combs, brushes, and towels.Personal hygiene or cleanliness in the home or school has nothing to do with getting head lice.
Head Lice in Schools
- Head lice are common and are not associated with any significant health conditions
- No healthy child should be excluded from or miss school because of head lice
- In-school transmission is rare
- Stigmatization of children with head lice must be minimized
- In-school transmission is rare
- In-school transmission is rare
Head lice mass screening programs have not had a significant effect on the incidence of head lice in the school setting over time and have not proven to be cost-effective Notification and Treatment. If your child is noted to have head lice or nits in school, you will be notified by School Health staff who will provide recommendations regarding treatment. Your child will not be publicly embarrassed or singled out, nor will they be required to leave school early. Children with live lice should be treated that evening prior to returning to school the next day. Recommendations regarding treatment are available at the websites listed below. Many treatments are available without a prescription. Children who fail standard treatment should be referred to their primary care provider. Resources: Myths and Facts about Dealing with Head Lice Información Básica sobre Piojos National Association of School Nurses Position Statement American Academy of Pediatrics Revised Clinical Report Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Learn more at www.arlingtonva.us.
Falls Church School District
This school district maintains the same lice policy as the two aforementioned school districts as stated on its web site: “Outbreaks of head lice are common among children in schools and daycare, affecting all social and economic groups. Because there is no evidence that head lice transmit disease, pediculosis is considered a nuisance rather than a health hazard. Head lice are not spread to humans from pets. Head lice are spread either by direct contact with a person who has head lice or indirectly by contact with personal belongings of an infested person. Specific guidelines are in place to address pediculosis in the school setting. Current research does not support exclusion policies for nits. Exclusion policies can result in:
- increased absences from school which can have a negative impact on academic success and lost work time for parents;
- issues surrounding discrimination;
- over-treatment for head lice leading to resistance to commonly used medication; and
- a decreased tendency for parents to report cases identified at home.
FCHD and the FCCPS do not support excluding students with nits. Learn more at www.fccps.org While each district is responsible for its own head lice policy, schools in Northern Virginia generally reflect these more lenient policies. To ensure that you are up-to-date with your school policy, LiceDoctors recommends that you check in with your school nurse.