WASHINGTON — Some schools are letting kids with live lice in their hair back in the classroom, a less restrictive policy that has parents scratching their heads.
"Lice is icky, but it's not dangerous," says Deborah Pontius, the school nurse for the Pershing County School District in Lovelock, Nev. "It's not infectious, and it's fairly easy to treat."
Previously, most schools have required children with lice to be sent home, in an attempt to prevent the spread to other children. Children haven't been allowed to return to the classroom until all the lice and nits, or lice eggs, are removed.
Also, schools customarily send notes home to let parents know that a child in class had lice so that they could be on the lookout for lice on their own children. Pontius has stopped doing that, as well.
The policy shift is designed to help keep children from missing class, shield children with lice from embarrassment and protect their privacy.
Schools in Tennessee, California, Florida, Nebraska, New Mexico and South Carolina also are adopting the more lenient lice policy.
Some questions and answers about head lice and the new policies.
Q: WHAT ARE LICE AND WHO GETS THEM?
A: Lice are tiny grayish-white bugs that infest a scalp, sucking bits of blood every few hours. Lice don't jump or fly. They crawl. They are not a sign of poor hygiene.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that there are 6 million to 12 million head lice infestations each year in the United States among children 3 to 11 years old. While itchy and unpleasant, health experts say lice don't spread disease and are not a health hazard.
Q: IF THEY'RE NOT A HEALTH HAZARD, WHY ARE KIDS SENT HOME?