Got Lice Eggs? Welcome to School!

Filed under: Opinions

Back when our son was in kindergarten a note came home: Someone in his class had lice. We should check behind his ears and alert the school nurse if we found anything.

Since that day, I have had a little bit of what might be called "lice-quest obsession." I worry about lice. A lot. Sometimes, while I'm stroking my kids' sweet heads or the heads of one of their friends, I'm think, "Aw, I love this kid! Anyone alive in there? Hmm? What was that? And what was that?" I realize this can't be healthy.

Healthy or Hurtful?

    Once upon a time, that kid in kindergarten with the lice had to stay home until he (or she) was nit-free. Not any more. Some schools are letting nit-infested students back into the classroom. Makes you itchy just thinking about it, doesn't it?

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And now comes news that many schools will allow kids with lice eggs, aka nits, to stay in school. The idea is supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Association of School Nurses. The point being, since nits themselves aren't contagious, kids with nits should stay in class. "To withhold a child from school due to nits really interrupts the educational process," the National Association of School Nurses Executive Director Amy Garcia told the AP. Apparently, about 60 percent of schools already allow kids with nits to stay in class.

This concept inspires a little anxiety: Aren't nits just "about-to-be-hatched" lice? Apparently, not always ...

It turns out, some nits never hatch into lice. And children with actively crawling lice in their hair are sent home from school, though some new thinking is that schools should let crawling-lice-infested children stay in school for the rest of the day, and just "avoid close head contact with other children."

If you've ever tried to keep your child from sharing hats, hair bows, or jackets, you have some idea of how well that warning must be working out.

This is a tough and divisive issue: Parents of kids who don't have lice definitely want children with nits to go home for a thorough comb-out, while parents of those children who, through no fault of their own, keep getting nits just want their kids to get back to learning their colors and new math. Most of all, no one wants any child to be shamed with a public "Go home! You have lice!"

Meanwhile, the US has anywhere from six to 12 million cases of head lice a year. That's a lot of hair crawlies. In the end all we can do is try to keep lice at bay as best we can, since that's best for everyone.

Part of my personal lice obsession has been driven by the fact that I'd never actually seen live lice and everyone kept talking about how impossible they are to see and how you never know if you have them until you're "really infested." (Gross. Gross. Gross.) I recently found a few videos that show you exactly what those little critters look like crawling along in the hair, and how to treat lice. Since I saw them "live" on video I haven't been as obsessed. Much.

PS: Your school nurse should know the policy at school. Ask if you don't know.

Do you think kids with nits should be allowed to stay in school or sent home?

Sabrina Weill is editor-in-chief of

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.
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