Few things strike fear into the heart of parents like the threat of lice.
There's the pit in your stomach upon finding the creepy-crawlies on your kid's scalp (and, soon enough, yours). The spiky little combs. The obsessive, repeated washing of every piece of fabric in your house/car/life. The very-real possibility of lice re-entering your life even after you've picked everyone's heads clean, walked around with that thick-as-toothpaste treatment goop in your hair, and burned your linens, thanks to how highly contagious and prevalent the pesky bugs are.
So a lot people are not impressed with a new proposed policy at an Ontario school board that would allow kids with lice to stay in class.
The Thames Valley District School Board (TVDSB) in London, Ont., posted a draft policy for public input on its website Wednesday. In it, the board says that head lice isn't responsible for the spread of disease, and "there is no medical evidence to exclude a student from class/school."
"Your child may attend school while treatment for head lice is underway. Please return the Treatment Plan Checklist on the day your child returns to school," the new draft policy for parents reads.
The policy is part of a growing movement to keep kids with lice in class. The York Catholic District School Board and Hastings And Prince Edward District School Board have already adapted a similar plan across their schools, CBC News reports. And, since it changed policy in 2012, the Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board has allowed kids with lice to remain in class, Durham Region reports.
Watch: How to prevent lice. Story continues below.
The TVDSB's previous policy saw kids with head lice sent home and readmitted once treatment for lice was finished and there was no evidence of lice or nits (eggs).
The Toronto District School Board has a similar policy, noting that "the parent is required to keep the child at home until the problem is cleared," on its website. The Ottawa Catholic School Board's lice policy notes that "a student will not be permitted to re-enter the school until the first of the two required treatments to eradicate head lice has been successful."
Lice are very common
Head lice are tiny, wingless, blood-sucking insects that live on the human scalp and lay eggs, and are very common in school-age children and children in childcare, according to the Canadian Paediatric Society (CPS). They spread by hair-to-hair contact or by sharing hats, combs, hairbrushes and headphones, CPS says.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that six to 12 million infestations occur each year among children ages three to 11 in the United States.
Lice can be treated with non-prescription insecticides found in treatments like R&C shampoo, Nix creme rinse or Kwellada-P creme rinse, CPS noted. And you should wash any items that touched the head with hot water, then dry them in a hot dryer, or "store the items in an airtight plastic bag for two weeks."
Part of a growing movement
This more lenient lice policy is in line with what many health professionals actually recommend. CPS recommends that kids with head lice be treated, then attend school or daycare just as they normally would.
"No-nit policies" are not necessary," CPS said on its website. Head lice are common, and kids would miss a lot of school if they had to stay home, CPS said. Plus, they don't spread disease and aren't dangerous.
"Making children stay at home will not get rid of head lice. Often, other children in the class have lice but don't have any symptoms. Without treatment, they will continue to spread lice," CPS said.
Ottawa Public Health notes "there is no medical reason for excluding a child with nits or live lice from school or child care."
But, unimpressed parents had a lot to say on social media about this potential change.
"Whoever thought of keeping kids with head lice in the classroom needs to give their head a good shake," one woman wrote on Twitter.
"This is ridiculous! Maybe whoever is drafting this up has never had the pleasure of trying to get rid of head lice. It is awful! If one is missed the cycle starts all over again," another person wrote on CBC News' Facebook page.
"Absolutely sent home! Do you want a classroom full of head lice, then EVERYONE in the household?? It's not a punishment or "centering" (sic) out a child if they are sent home....it happens so go home and take care of it instead of spreading it around a never ending viscous (sic) cycle!," another person commented.
"My poor child, I would keep them home, treat and remove the lice, and when they got back to school they'd come home with it again. Poor scalp was raw from all of the treatments and combing. At the very least do a mandatory 24 to 48 hour home period. What we went through that year was literally hell," wrote someone else.
TVDSB's proposed lice policy is open for public feedback until May.
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