Public school districts all over the country are changing their stance on lice in schools. Where before they had followed a “No Nit” policy that sent a child home if he or she had nits in the hair, but no live lice, now they are allowing children withnits to be in the classroom. Parents are confused, skeptical, and increasingly, angry. What’s the basis for such a change that is so seemingly wrong?
Schools are following the new recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Association of School Nurses urging schools to drop the “No Nit” policy. Lice do not transmit any known diseases. Lice can cause the human head to be incredibly itchy, so the worst one could contract would be a scratch that then got infected. Even the CDC considers lice to be a terrible nuisance but not a public health hazard.
Ok, so lice do no harm, physically. However, parents who’ve had lice know how a lice infestation can turn your life upside-down for weeks, or even months. Endless loads of laundry, countless hours of time treating heads, couches, carseats and every surface in the home – the stress is enormous. So why allow a child with nits back in school?
The answer lies in a child’s right to an education. Lice are incredibly hard to treat, even for me, and I’m a professional who combs out lice 50 hours a week! Many parents are trying their best to treat their child’s lice, but they are failing. When they fail, kids miss school – lots of school. Children with persistent lice often miss days, weeks, or at the most extreme, months of instructional time due to No Nit policies.
This is an extreme punishment for a child who deserves to have the right to learn alongside her peers. When you think of the cost to the child when he or she is forced to stay home and miss valuable instruction, and the cost to the parent who misses work, it explains why schools are reversing their stance. However, it’s a hard one to accept for the parents of the children in the classroom alongside those children who remain infested.
These parents are angry, and rightfully so. They are spending their hard-earned dollars and their precious time to treat the lice until they are eradicated from their family, only to have the children be re-infested over and over at school. The reversal of the “No Nit” policy has these parents up in arms. How to solve this very real dilemma?
The answer to this problem is to educate every parent and every school system how to truly eliminate lice from the school population. The most basic of tools – a metal specialty lice comb – and frequent combing of children by parents or professionals, both for prevention and treatment, is all that is needed to control lice in a school.