School lice policies are becoming more lenient in the Tidewater region In some areas in the Tidewater region, school lice policies are becoming more lenient, while some still maintain “no nit” policies. Previously children with head lice were excluded from school until the hair had “been treated and ALL of the eggs (nits) had been removed.” Now some schools are relaxing their head lice policies, and allow students with nits to remain in school if the nits are no longer viable i.e. within a ¼ of the scalp. Below are some of the towns in the Tidewater, Virginia area and their corresponding head lice policies:
Virginia Beach City Public Schools
According to Mary Shaw, coordinator of health services in Virginia Beach, last year the school district dropped its "no nit" policy, which sent home children found with eggs anywhere on their heads. Until this change in 2012, the schools maintained an absolute “no nit” policy that sent home students with any signs of lice or nits in their hair. The new policy states that students with head lice and/or viable nits are still sent home as the case is considered contagious. Now, however, “students found with nits more than a quarter-inch from the scalp are allowed to stay because those eggs will never hatch,” Shaw said. “Students found with live infestations or nits nearer the scalp are still sent home. If a cluster of students is found with lice, the rest of the class is still checked.” The policy goes on to state that, “a student is confirmed to have head lice infestation when the school nurse identifies live lice on the student's head, and/or nits are found within 1/4 inch of the base of the hair shafts (scalp). Screening, recommendations and communication will be managed in a discreet manner to maintain student's confidentiality and privacy rights.”
- The student will not return to class and the parent/guardian will be contacted to pick the student up from school.
- The student must receive treatment for head lice before returning to school.
- The student's parent/guardian will receive a copy of the Head Lice Education Handout. In elementary schools K-5, if 1 case of head lice infestation is identified in a classroom, a notification letter to parents/guardians, and a Head Lice (Pediculus humanus capitis) Education Handout will be distributed to all students in that particular classroom.
- Upon return to school, the student must report to the clinic and the nurse will recheck the student to rule out continued head lice infestation.
- The student will be rechecked by the school nurse in 14 days.
- In elementary schools K-5, if evidence of greater than 1 case of head lice infestation is obtained by the school nurse, the nurse will complete head lice checks on all students in that particular classroom.”
The reason for the loosening of criteria for school admission for children with head lice is that the National Association of School Nurses and the American Academy of Pediatricians, recommend that students with nits and even live lice not be sent home as it “disrupts the educational process. Children found with live head lice should remain in class, but be discouraged from close direct head contact with others” While schools in Virginia Beach have become less strict with their school head lice admission policies, they still do not fully follow the recommendation of these two organizations that advocate that children with live bugs should be allowed to remain in school. Our standard is high for exclusion," Shaw said. "We're not going to share other students' information. We're going to protect our kids. If it was your child, you'd want to do it, too."
Portsmouth, Virginia School District
Schools in Portsmouth, Virginia have not yet dropped their “no nit” lice policies, but the school is becoming more lenient with respect to allowing students with nits to return to school if they are being treated. The district sends kids home with live lice, but if they have nits that are not close to the scalp they are allowed to remain and are expected to be treated at home. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention insists that while lice are a nuisance, they do not spread disease and are not a sign of poor hygiene. Because lice are a “sensitive topic” for parents, any further liberalizing in the schools’ policy will be done slowly so as not to upset parents. Nurses understand that while parents don't want their children around active cases, they also don’t want them to miss school. “When a student is found to have lice or nits, the division will notify the child's family to talk about treatment options. Nurses won't send out mass mailings to other classmates. It's an issue of student confidentiality,” says Student Health Coordinator Gray, “but also an attempt to limit’"mass hysteria.’”
Chesapeake School District
Chesapeake schools, on the other hand, has not altered its lice procedures, which call for students to be lice and nit-free and require students to be treated and checked by a school nurse before returning to class.
Norfolk School District
Norfolk also still retains it "no nit" policy and requests that parents of affected students " pursue treatment immediately and control the active infestation before a child returns to school," according to a school spokeswoman.
Suffolk School District
Suffolk Schools continue to send students home immediately when a case of lice is found. Currently, however, the city health services supervisor is reviewing the division's lice procedures. The entire region of Hampton Roads and Tidewater is working to establish a school lice policy that both respects the needs of students who are lice-free and allows students with nits to attend school so as not to fall behind. To keep apprised of your school’s policy, call your school nurse.