Should Policies Allow Lice at School?
I don’t have many memories of being sick as a child. Only a few that really stand out. But one memory I have are the multiple times I had lice. My head starts to itch even thinking about it.
There are several stereotypes about lice. The kid is dirty. The parents don’t take care of them. The list goes on. No I wasn’t a dirty child. Yes I took a bath. The plain truth is – any kid can get lice and I did a few times.
I remember what I went through each time. It was pure torture. Thinking back on it, I can’t even imagine the impact on my mother.
For hours I’d stand on a chair in the kitchen over the sink. A nit comb in my mother's hand. My neck in pain, and me almost in tears, as she carefully combed the nits (eggs) out of my hair.
I could hear my mother cursing under her breath, trying not to upset me. I stood there, apologizing over and over, my mother reassuring me it wasn’t my fault, but hers.
Each time she gathered all the clothes, towels, and bedding and took on the endless loads of laundry. I sat at the kitchen table with wet hair, quarantined. My mom yelling from the laundry room that — yet again — she would have to cut my long, beautiful hair.
No matter the precautions my mother took, I would end up with lice again. Another day or two lost at school until they would take me back. Another day or two my mother missed work. Another day I sat over the sink, my neck hurting me, my mother cursing.
Those memories live with me till this day. I’m grown now, and have a son of my own, and I dread the day that I get the call from school saying “Ma’am, please come get your kid – he has lice”. I don’t want to be repeating the same patterns and processes my mother went through so many years ago.
That’s where this article gave me hope. Traditionally – “… any discovery of live lice in a child’s hair warrants a phone call and immediate removal of the child from school. At some schools, the child may return the next day if the parents have treated the child’s hair.”
In his piece, Kois shares his frustration over missing multiple days of work to take care of head lice issues with his daughters. “In schools with no-nit policies, a child can’t return unless every last tiny louse egg has been combed from her hair — and schools may check returning students and send them home if any nits are found.”
A lot of us might react with, “Yeah, that’s right, what about it?”. Well each year, several kids can miss multiple days of school just because of lice. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Association of School Nurses, “lice are not particularly contagious, they hurt basically no one, and they’re not a public health risk.”
With this new revelation, schools in Arlington, Virginia, have adopted a new policy. If a child is found to have lice at school, the parent will be contacted but the child is sent back to the classroom to complete the day. The expectation is that parents are to treat the lice and the child can learn uninterrupted.
Did you just have a little mini-freak out? I know I did when I first read it. Then after a few minutes it made complete sense!
Carolyn Duff, the president of the National Association of School Nurses says, “If you find live lice during the school day, its likely that child has had lice for weeks. Allowing the child to remain in the classroom for a few more hours is not putting children at risk.”
In my opinion, the less that my child is out of school, the better it is for us both. We already miss enough days for the flu, the common ear infection, or simply regular doctor visits. Having to miss potentially weeks of school (in severe cases) can be traumatic to a child’s academics.
If it’s not a concern for doctors and nurses, why should it be a concern of mine? Duff continues, “It’s not that easy to get lice! They don’t fly. They don’t jump. They can barely crawl through your scalp. They can only spread through head-to-head contact, and children in schools don’t usually have head-to-head contact.” In fact, many experts suggest children are more likely to spread lice during slumber parties or playdates than at school.
Even though lice creep me out, knowing that I won’t be sharing my mother's frustration of having to stay home comforts me.
The article suggests parents have a voice at their own schools. “If your school still sends kids home for lice or for nits, what can you do? Find out who makes the decisions on those policies. Sometimes its a school-by-school choice, which means you can collect all the relevant scientific information and talk to your principal.”
What do you think? Are you a lice/nit free parent, or do you agree with sending the child back to the classroom?