Policies: When Lice
Attack the Classroom
By John O'Neil
From The New York Times 09/02/03
A year after the American Academy of
Pediatrics called on schools to end no-nits policies that keep children
being treated for head lice out of classes, little has changed except the
intensity of the debate, according to an article published yesterday in
The American Journal of Nursing.
The article said few schools had dropped their no-nits rules, even though
the pediatrics academy had argued that the policy led some children to
miss so much school that they were forced to repeat a grade.
The academy says schools should educate parents to check routinely for
head lice when children scratch a lot. When lice are discovered in school,
it says, the child should be sent home at the end of the day, to limit
embarrassment, and parents should be urged to begin treatment immediately
to allow the child to return the next day.
The academy recommends treatment with a cream rinse, sold commercially as
Nix, which contains permethrin.
The nursing journal article said those recommendations had been vigorously
contested over the last year by members of the National Pediculosis
Association, which opposes chemical treatments in favor of the use of
special combs to find and remove nits.
Dr. Barbara Frankowski, a Vermont pediatrician who is chairwoman of the
academy's committee on school health, said in an interview that she had
heard of some districts in her area that had dropped the no-nit policy,
but was not aware of any widespread change.
She said the rules made no sense. "Nits cannot spread head lice - a nit is
an unhatched egg that's firmly attached to the child's hair," she said.
"And not to downplay the nuisance factor, but absolutely no harm can come
to a child as a result of contracting nits."*
"Just because head lice are icky," she added, "people get all hot and
bothered about it."
Comment: Nits (hatched or unhatched)
in the hair indicate the possible presence of live lice which are
communicable. Thorough nit removal is the vital component in
controlling head lice.
The New York Times Company