PRESCOTT – The Prescott School District is revising its policy on when students with lice are sent home from school.
The Centers for Disease Control and National Association of School Nurses are advocating against the practices of sending students with lice home, screening whole classrooms and broad notifications of lice outbreaks.
District Nurse Jessica Stute said the new district policy aims to keep students in classroom, but that students with active adult lice would still be sent home. The Prescott School Board held a first reading of the amended policy at its meeting Wednesday night.
According to the School Nurse Association, there are upwards of 12 million head lice infestations mostly in children ages 3-11 each year “regardless of socioeconomic status.” It states that lice are getting harder to fight because “families are overor incorrectly treating” outbreaks.
The organization’s advice is that classroom screenings “are often inaccurate, not cost-effective, and notification to others may be a breach of confidentiality.”
“School districts should not exclude students for active infestation or when nits remain after appropriate lice treatment,” the group’s policy states.
Stute said Prescott is being a “little bit more conservative, but we are also changing it that it is not exclusionary.”
The district has seen a rise in cases as the school year has progressed.
“I know St. Joe’s (St. Joseph’s Catholic School) had quite a few cases, and that’s kind of where we’re seeing transfer,” she said.
The school will work on screening students but not sending students home unless necessary when adult lice are found. “If we see them at this point, that means that they can be transferred. It if is adolescent or nits, it cannot be transferred to another person’s head at that time. That’s why we want this change,” she said.
Sending students home with any evidence of lice can cause a serious loss of instructional time.
“We don’t want to exclude children, because this can be a process that can lead to weeks, even a month. We’ve had families that were excluded for up to 20-30 days last year, and it was because they were being sent home every single time,” Stute said.
The Prescott policy is stricter that the state Department of Public Instruction position.
“They are in full support of not sending kids home for any lice,” Stute said. “We’re trying to adjust and meet in the middle of that.”
She thought the district would get pushback from parents if it didn’t send students with active adult lice home.
“I just feel that we would have an uprising in parents,” she said. “We didn’t want to adjust to that point as of yet. We understand the guidelines, but we want to also be respectful.”
The district also helps families with outbreaks and puts out information on the topic to families on what to do about lice outbreaks. She said there are also programs that can help families that need it with medication and funds for laundry and cleaning supplies.
The policy will receive a second reading at the December board meeting prior to final approval.