DPS adopts new rules for head lice

Jan. 26, 2014 @ 04:39 PM

The school board has approved revisions to Durham Public Schools’ policy for head lice to reflect new thinking about the common childhood problem.
Under the new rules adopted by the board on Thursday, only a child with live head lice will be sent home, and/or if eggs (nits) are seen within one-quarter inch from a child’s scalp.
Before, just the presence of nits was enough for a child to be sent home and excluded from school activities.
Debbie Pitman, assistant superintendent for student, family and community services, said the policy revision brings the school district in line with the recommended practices of the American Association of Pediatrics (AAP) and the National Association of School Nurses.
“Basically, our old policy said the existence of any egg or nit, a student would be excluded from school and sent home,” Pitman said. “The best advice coming out of the medical community is telling school districts that nits are not the threat as much as the live lice itself, and our policy is reflecting that.”
The AAP updated its recommendations in 2010, urging school districts to do away with “no-nit” policies that forced children out of classrooms.
“Head lice are not a health hazard or a sign of poor hygiene and, in contrast to body lice, are not responsible for the spread of any diseases,” the AAP said. “No healthy child should be excluded from or miss school because of head lice, and no-nit policies for return to school should be abandoned.”
Pitman said the district will soon post on its website information about treatment, prevention strategies and where to go for more assistance.
“We’re really trying to provide a comprehensive resource listing for families in addition to what the school already provides when a family is faced with this challenge,” Pitman said.
The new policy was developed by Richard Lemke, principal of the DPS Hospital School, and the Durham County Health Department.  
School board Chairwoman Heidi Carter noted that the school district relies heavily on principals and school staff to identify and address occurrences of lice.
“We know that we don’t have the recommended number of nurses per student in this district, or in any district in North Carolina, and we would like to have more nurses to help with issues like these but we’re doing an admirable job of managing it as we go along,” Carter said.