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They're Letting Kids with Lice Go to School!

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How sick is this?

girl with nits at school

It used to be that when a kid had lice or lice eggs in their hair, they had to stay home from school. Not anymore! Many schools have become much less nitpicky.

With the backing of some major health organizations, a majority of schools across the country are allowing children to stay in class if they have nits -- lice eggs -- but not actual crawling bugs in their hair.

It's a change recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Association of School Nurses, and it has been welcomed by many educators and parents, who worried that students were missing too much school, that moms and dads were missing work, and children were being made to feel ashamed.

The U.S. has anywhere from 6 million to 12 million cases of head lice each year, though that is only a "guesstimate," said Dr. Barbara Frankowski, a Vermont pediatrician who has studied the subject extensively. It is not clear whether there have been more infestations in recent years as a result of the new, more relaxed policies.

The switch came after a 2002 AAP study that said students with nits shouldn't be kept out of class. The real problem, according to the medical experts, is the lice, not their eggs.

"Nits don't spread. They don't jump from one person to another," said Amy Garcia, executive director of the National Association of School Nurses. "So to withhold a child from school due to nits really interrupts the educational process."

Once nits hatch, they generally take 7 to 10 days to become full-grown adults that can lay eggs and begin the cycle all over again.

About 60% of schools now allow children with nits to stay in class, Garcia said.

The AAP also says that kids who are found to have crawling head lice should be allowed to stay in school for the rest of the day, but discouraged from close head contact with others. But not many school districts have gone that far.

Getting rid of head lice often requires a strong anti-lice shampoo to kill the crawling bugs, and a fine-tooth comb to pick the nits out of the hair. But the safety and effectiveness of some shampoos are questionable, and removing all the nits can take days if not months. (One staffer here battled her daughter's lice for over two months.)

Even though lice are creepy, the health dangers that lice pose are relatively small. Lice have not been found to carry disease, though excessive scratching can lead to infections.

Do you think kids with lice eggs in their hair should be allowed in school?

next: Overwhelming Sadness: Teen Depression
17 comments so far | Post a comment now
Anonymous February 20, 2009, 3:36 PM


I also think kids that are NOT vaccinated should NOT be in school either.

Sarah February 20, 2009, 4:05 PM

That is wrong! Who is to say that the nurse didnt see a bug crawling around while checking?

By the way, if vaccinations work anonymous, then whats the bid deal if a kid who isnt vaccinated goes to school? Isnt your kid protected?

Rexanne Mancini February 20, 2009, 4:09 PM

NO! Keep those lice-infested kids away from other kids until the problem is completely eradicated!

Head lice is the most miserable experience of my parenthood, including dealing with teenage daughters. LOL I wouldn’t wish head lice on someone I hated.

Parents, please keep your lice-infested kids home! Big Pharma doesn’t need any more of our money spent on poisonous lice shampoo that often doesn’t fix the problem and can cause our kids harm. Sure, they’d love to see millions more kids infested yearly - they’d sell more lice shampoo! GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR

Jessica February 20, 2009, 5:20 PM

Head lice can turn into such an epidemic if left untreated. My kids’ school doesn’t check, but I am constantly checking my kids’ hair. I’d be pissed if I found out parents were sending their children to school with eggs in their hair. It is sooo much work getting rid of those pesky things!

darijavan February 20, 2009, 6:55 PM

I think parents should keep their kids home until the problem is taken care of. I remember when my son was in grade school it was always the same kids who infected all the other kids with lice. I’m glad those days are over.

Jennifer February 21, 2009, 12:53 AM

NO NO NO !!!

Keep your kid at home if they have crawling bugs or eggs! Are you kidding! How is the nurse going to be sure there’s no mom in there tending to all those eggs! And how do they know when they were layed. Today could be hatching day, then they’re crawling all over the classroom. If I ran the school, you and all your kids would have to go!!!

PS I had long hair as a kid, and it was a lice magnet! I think I caught it 3 times when I was a kid. I once had to get a hideous 80’s perm (great idea from my evil stepmother) so the chemicals could kill the lice. Boy are these some precious memories!

BrendaM February 21, 2009, 3:18 AM

When my 3 children were in grade school, the school nurse was doing her routine check and found lice in oldest hair. She called the other two out of their classrooms and followed them down the hall with a vaccum. My children were teased so much that I had to put them in an out of district school. I think letting children stay in school with nits is wrong, but people need to be nicer.

Anonymous February 21, 2009, 7:35 PM

When I was a teacher, I checked the class monthly. The same kids every time would have it. The mom never did anything about it. One girl had lice the entire school year. It was so sad really. The mom just said she was too poor (she really was poor) to afford the shampoos and her house was infected. I felt bad for her but I kept sending her home. I didn’t want to catch it nor did I want my other students to deal with it. Also, as a regular lice checker, it’s fairly easy to spot the nits but really more difficult to find the live bugs. They are easily overlooked.

Andrea February 22, 2009, 9:29 PM

I agree with Jennifer. Just because you don’t see the louse, doesn’t mean it isn’t there. And she is right. If a child comes to school with eggs in their hair, who’s to say they won’t hatch that day. I work at an elementary school and those children are in close quarters; i.e. their jackets and backpacks share the same cubbie. Both my daughters had lice and they have looong hair. It takes time and patience to comb out all the nits, but it can be done. I wouldn’t dream of sending them to school with eggs in their hair!

ann February 24, 2009, 12:22 AM

Wow! A few years ago I battled lice…The big problem? I have 6 daughters and they were 2-12 at the time. I had to wash every blanket, conforter, sheet, backpack, and coat in the house.I then spent 2-4 hours a day looking for lice. It was a nightmare. I finally cut all their long hair off. This went on for 6 weeks. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.

Angie February 24, 2009, 7:09 AM

I have gotten 2 letters in the past 2 weeks about some kid being in my kid’s school with Lice, NOT nits. I don’t need to miss work because of some parent’s inability to notice bugs crawling in their child’s hair. These things are preventable and it’s not fair to other people to have this presented to us like this. I don’t have time for it. Just like a cold, virus, or other highly communicable disease, keep your kids home!!!!!

Marie February 24, 2009, 6:20 PM

As a mom who has been through this before, I have found that using products like hairspray and gels help to keep the lice and nits away. I’d rather wash their hair daily from the products than trying to get those little creatures out!!!

Shirley February 24, 2009, 7:19 PM

I remember going through this when my husband was stationed in South Texas. We lived in a little town called Portland. And they didn’t want to shame anyone. So the kids were indeed allowed to go to school with Head Lice over and over and over again. It was so bad that even the head lice shampoo would not work. Boy Am I glad we don’t live there anymore. Yuckkkkkkkkkyyyyyyyy

Moet March 28, 2009, 2:19 PM

I am a NYC African American teacher and I have a student in my class who has had repeated infestations of lice since last year. But I’m Black!!! We don’t get lice!! Wrong!!! I got lice too!!! After repeatedly being exposed to these lice I got it!! I was eating my lunch and one little SOB popped out of my head full grown ( but it was dying due to the perm that I use) Once I went to the Parlor I had a whole lot of nits in my haed but no adults. I have 3 daughters so I looked in their head but there was nothing. I still went bonkers!! My husband washed all the sheets and towels and we mopped and vaccummed and I had to treat, wash and blow dry 3 girls heads!!!! But kids with anything that can be a potential hazard should not be allowed in such close corners as this. It makes no sense to put everybody at risk like this!!!

Anonymous February 4, 2010, 6:15 AM

Definitely no kid should be allowed to retutn to school until they are nit free. Many school systems want your children there no matter what because they lose money every day that they are absent. I would love to know what number of students it would take for these school administrators to realize the problem. Maybe if their own children had lice they would crackdown on the people who keep sending their kids to school time and time again infested. I would say that in most cases that are repeat offenders if the social services looked more closely there is definitely some child neglect going on. Shame on you Superintendents and other school administrators.

tired mom July 5, 2010, 1:04 PM

Hell No! Going on 2 months of fighting this and I’m not looking forward to school starting in the fall.

water damage March 18, 2011, 12:02 AM

Looking forward to future articles/posts.

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