Seattle School Lice Policy Tends Towards Leniency
Head lice policies in schools in the Seattle and Tacoma areas tend to be on the lenient side in keeping with a trend toward allowing students with nits to remain in school. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Association of School Nurses discourage “No Nit policies” because they state that no child should miss unnecessary school time due to head lice.
Seattle Public Schools
The Seattle Public Schools allows students with live lice to remain in school until the end of the school day in accordance with the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics. The policy is stated as “A student who is found with lice may remain in school and in class until the end of the day. Discretion should be used regarding individual cases. Students should be discouraged from close head-to-head contact with others. Notify parent/guardians of the infestation. Provide parent/guardian information on the care options for treatment. Notification letter with treatment options should be sent home with student. Siblings and close contacts of a student with live lice should be examined. Remember to keep the student’s identity confidential as to avoid undue embarrassment. The student may return to school when the parent/guardian reports having treated the student and the student has no live lice are found on inspection.”
Tacoma Public Schools
The Tacoma School District Board of Directors revised the district head lice policy in July 2009 (Policy 3410 – Student Health). Tacoma School District no longer has a “no nit” policy.
The policy is stated as:
- “when a student is suspected of having lice or nits, please refer the student to the nurse or designated employee trained by the nurse to do such checks for a private, personal assessment. Universal precautions are to be used to avoid transmitting the lice to others.
- When a student is confirmed to have lice – the student’s parent/guardian will be notified that day by telephone or by a note sent home with the student at the end of the school day. Provide the parent/guardian information on the care options for treatment. Siblings and close contacts of the affected student should also be screened for head lice. A student who is found to have lice may remain in school and in class until the end of the day. Discretion should be used regarding individual cases. Students should be discouraged from close head-to-head contact with others. Confidentiality must be maintained. After treatment the child should be able to return to school the next day. Encourage the family to remove as many nits as possible.
- When the student returns to school an adult must accompany the student to the office. A trained designated staff member will check the student to verify that he/she is head lice free. The student should be re-examined 8 to 10 days after returning to school to determine that there are no more live lice.
- If only nits (eggs) are found upon inspection of the students head, a telephone call to the parent/guardian should occur to determine if the student has been recently treated for head lice and to encourage the family to remove as many of the nits as possible.”
Northshore School District:
The Northshore School District also recently revised their school policy guidelines with respect to head lice. According to Sandie Tracy, RN, Director of Nursing Services, " The focus is on educating parents about head lice. We do a disservice to students when we send them home with nits as the likelihood of passing the case to another student is low. We educate parents that only live lice are transferable . With the new policy kids are missing less school. Parents associate lice with school but that is just because schools are where kids are checked for head lice."
The policy is as follows:
- “Students with nits only will be rechecked in 8-10 days. Parents are instructed to remove all nits.
- Students found to have live lice; parent will be notified by phone and student may remain in school to the end of the day and a letter sent home regarding treatment.
- To return to class students must present with evidence of adequate treatment (no lice and removal of most of the nits). Parents are asked to accompany the student to the office with the signed note stating what type of treatment was used.
- Nurse may continue to provide follow-up checks.
- The customary notification for the presence of head lice is to be done on an individual/case by case basis to the parent/guardian of an infested student. Classroom notifications are not done with typical head lice cases unless there are a high number of cases or other circumstances as determined by the school principal and school nurse. Schools will remind families to routinely check their students throughout the year.
- Entire classrooms will be screened when there are three cases in a 2-week period where the students are not in contact outside of class. (OSPI 2004)”
Lake Washington School District
The Lake Washington School District has a much stricter head lice policy than the three aforementioned districts. Students with lice or nits will be sent home from school and will not be readmitted until checked by the school nurse.
- “If your child is identified with lice, the school nurse will give you information on treatment options. All students with head lice must be excluded from school and remain at home until treatment is completed and all visible evidence of lice are removed. No child will be readmitted to school unless first checked by a district representative in the school office. A parent or guardian should accompany their child when they return to school.
- For privacy reasons, a student with head lice will not be identified to staff or other students, except staff that provide re-checks and re-entry to school. For the same reasons, letters will be sent to the parents of a class for a single case of lice in that class. Letters are sent only to the parents of the class involved. Remember, transmission can only happen with head to head contact or sharing items that have contacted the head such as combs, brushes, or hats.”
LiceDoctors recommends that you call your school nurse to confirm your school’s lice policy. In general, though, most schools in the Seattle do allow students into school with nits as long as the student has been treated.