A new set of guidelines for classroom lice infestations is being implemented in the Pleasanton Unified School District. The new guidelines say students with eggs (nits) or head lice will be allowed to stay in school and that only the parent of the infested child will be notified.
The new procedures mean other parents and teachers will not be notified as they have in the past.
Several teachers have contacted Patch anonymously, expressing concern over the new guidelines.
According to a newsletter sent to parents of students at Hearst Elementary this week, the new guidelines state:
Head Lice: Pleasanton Unified School District has implemented new procedures for managing head lice based on national data and standards of care. The data is clear, lice are rarely spread at school. We are now following standards set by the California Department of Public Health, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Association of School Nurses, Harvard School of Public Health and many others.
The new standard is that students with eggs or head lice remain in school (rather than being immediately excluded). When lice are found on a child at school, that child's parent will be informed so they can administer treatment. For those of you with questions, please refer to the CDC website for information: http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/lice/head/
A computer presentation put together by Carrie Stravropoulos, the district's Registered Nurse, says 1 in 100 students will get lice each year. The document lists facts about lice and locations of eggs, transmission, treatment, along with the old and new guidelines.
The new guidelines say:
- Students may remain in class.
- Parents will be notified to begin treatment at the conclusion of the school day.
- Nit removal is not necessary with use of pediculicide.
- No whole class screenings.
- The district nurse will assist parents who struggle with proper treatment.
- Letters to classroom/school parents are unnecessary.
The presentation says that under the current guidelines classrooms are screened if more than one student in a class is infested along with screenings for the siblings of the infested students. The new guidelines eliminated the classroom screenings and says screening siblings of students infested is reasonable.
Stravropoulos says that under the previous guidelines, on occasion, that students in classrooms with an infestation were checked for lice.
"We recognized that it [checking classes with a reported infestation] was not a good use of educational minutes," she commented.
Stravropoulos says that "It [lice] is more of a nuisance than a health issue."
According to the presentation, which was created based on the recommendations of several national and state health organizations, letters notifying parents of an infestation in the classroom will no longer be sent out because infestation in the classroom is "highly unlikely." They encourage parents of infested children to notify playmates in case of an outbreak.
Stravropoulos says the change in guidelines was implemented because there was a concern about students missing school.
"We want kids in school as much as possible," Stravropoulos said.
According to Stravropoulos, Pleasanton Unified was not in compliance with the state and national guidelines for the treatment of lice in classrooms. Stravropoulos said Pleasanton's guidelines were different rather than being more or less than the standard guidelines.
The document also lists nits as being "viable eggs, old dead eggs or empty casings" but says that parents need not remove nits if they use a pediculicide (lice shampoo).
Stravropoulos admits that it's difficult to tell the difference between the three types of nits but that the new treatments take care of all types.
According to Stravropoulos, the reason for the change in recommendations on removal of nits is because using the lice shampoo initially will kill any live lice in the hair. She say the follow-up application 10 days later will kill any new bugs they may have hatched before they get a chance to reproduce again.
The guidelines previously posted the Pleasanton Unified School District's website:
Head lice are a common occurrence in schools. Pupils must be treated with insecticidal shampoo found in any drug store. Pupils found to have head lice may not return to school until all nits are removed from the hair. Pupils are required to have their hair checked and found free of nits by office staff prior to re-admittance to the classroom.
Head lice is an ongoing issue in the community. For more information, please refer to the All About Head Lice information sheet and the Frequently Asked Questions. More information can be found in this presentation.
Stravropoulos says there are no plans to discontinue the use of shared pinafores during physical education classes, despite the change in the lice guidelines.
"Transfer of lice by objects is rare," she said.
According to Stravropoulos, teachers will only be notified of a lice outbreak if a teacher "needs to know for medical reasons or for the safety of the students or self."
Stravropoulos acknowledged that although it is rare, a student could get an infection on the scalp from scratching.
"It is possible a student could get an infection, not from the lice, but from bacteria found underneath the nails from scratching the skin," she commented.
What do you think about the new head lice procedures in the Pleasanton schools? Have you dealt with lice in your child's classroom? What has your experience been? Tell us in the comments section below.