23 answers

Head Lice and School

My 7 yr old daughter was sent home last week with head lice. I was a bit furious because she started a new school this yr and we have never had a problem with this in the past. She had perfect attendance until this happened, and I was told that she could not return until she was completely lice, and nit free. Well that was a 3 day process. She had to be cleared by the nurse before she was able to return to class. I also discovered that my daughter is forced to share a locker with 3 other kids. I feel that this is unsanitary, and unacceptable. I did call the principal to complain, and all she said was I will see what I can do, and still has not done nothing. When I took her back to the school to be checked there were like 20 other kids waiting to be checked and to be sent home. I was also told that they have seen 100 cases out of 355 kids so far this year. I don't understand why this is such a problem in our public schools. I also don't understand why I got a letter sent home from the principal stating that her absence from school would be considered as unexcused when I was told that she could not return until she was cleaned up. I am just furious, and am actually considering pulling her out of school all together and home schooling her. I am ready to take this to the board, but feel that I am too mad to talk reasonable to them at this point. Any suggestions on how I can handle this problem without making myself look like the "problem parent"? Has anyone esle had problems with head lice and school, and if so how was it handled in your district?

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Thanks for the advice, but let me elaborate. I never said that having lice makes you a dirty person. I in fact know that lice like clean hair. I am not mad that they would not let her return to school. I am however upset that they are holding it against her in her school files. I did get some good advice about calling the Dr to get an excuse, and that is what i am going to do. I still don't know what to do about the locker situation because she has 28 kids in her class. I was told that she may not place her coat and book bag on the back of her chair as I suggested. I have been considering homeschooling her since we moved here in August. I can't afford private schools, and I was not and still not too happy with the district. It is so much different than the very small village of Mogadore that we moved from. I am also concerned for my youngest son who has heart defects and bringing home so many things from school can and is putting his health at risk. So lice is not the only reason that I have been pondering the homeschooling issue. I have a niece that home schools all 4 of her kids and they are very well mannered kids and have great social skills so that is not an issue for me. Once again thanks so much for the advice. It really has helped:)

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Well J. in this world there are all kinds of situations we have to deal with. Parents that doesnt have any knowledge of lice and etc. But I my self would always take in a box of plastic garbage bags in the beginning of the year my kids would start using them on day 1 of school.I did this 1 year asked the teacher if she would start allowing the students to use them she said yes and that year there were 0 cases in that class. I also bought spray when i heard there was some cases in my kids class, they had carpet in the room and a couch.Get on the computer and find some solution of what to use to help the situation, The lice shampoo i heard is not effective too much any more......

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Okay, here is what I have done in the past and since have not had any problems. You can purchase on the internet something called Neem oil. It is a natural oil that comes from the Neem tree in the Wetlands. This natural oil destroys the ecosystem of the little bugs. It is also good for fleas and insect pests. After the head is treated and you comb those things out you can safely put the neem oil I think 20 drops into your shampoo you normally use and it will keep all those types of bugs away from your child's head. It's also safe since you don't have to use a chemical on their head. I've been using it for over 9 years and we haven't had another problem since. At least that is how you can take control so your child doesn't get it again, but to handle the school situation, get a group of Mom's together and present it to the school board. I thought if 30% of the school had something they had to close school until it was under control. I normally get a letter about once a year saying that someone in my child's class has lice or someone in the school has it, etc. We haven't had a problem since I've been sneaking Neem oil into the shampoo. It smells really bad but mixed with your favorite shampoo it doesn't smell so bad. My oldest use to use it full strength at night for pimples. The website gives you ideas on how to use the Neem oil it can be used for so much more than just the bugs.

Good luck.

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As a public school employee, I am so thankful that they won't let children who haven't been cleared with lice back to school. I don't think that it is harsh, I think that it is the best and only preventative method that schools have. Lice does mean dirty or that the child doesn't bathe, it simply means that she got it from someone. As for locker sharing, four seems very excessive. I would continually check with the principal on that matter. And, be sure that your daughter isn't choosing to share b/c these are her friends, etc. Also, try to wash her coat a lot as that is where lice could breed. As for the letter, those are most of the time automatically generated by the school's attendance system. You could call or even get a doctor's note and ask for that to be fixed. Perfect attenadance will be lost, yes, but at least others won't be getting head lice. Finally, I am thinking that home schooling for this issue is a matter of anger on your part at the school...which I understand. I would just advise you to think long and hard about it and the commitment it would take from you and your daughter and the social skills that she would loose. Other than that, it sounds as if the district is handling it pretty standard. Thanks and good luck!

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I'm a health aide sub for my child's school district. We also have a no lice, no nits policy. This is to keep children from spreading lice to others. It always gets really bad in the fall when kids start bringing in jackets. At all of our schools kids are provided with white plastic garbage bags to keep all their stuff in during the school day. This is a good preventative, but not 100%. If your daughter's hair is long enough, have her keep it up in a ponytail or a bun when she's at school. Also, at our district we expect parents to be able to return their children to school after only one full day's absence. Delousing hair is a long process. It took me ALL DAY to pick the nits out of my son's hair when he had it. Please note that RID does not work very well. There's a more natural way to delouse your child's hair. If you need more details, send me a private message and I'll give you the details. It is wise to continue to check her hair for nits for the next 2 weeks and anytime a letter is sent home that lice have been found in your child's classroom. Last, but not least, buy a GOOD lice comb with metal teeth; the ones that come with the kits are cheep and worthless.

Sorry this was so wordy, good luck.

C. S

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what!!!??? fight it! they can't tell her she's not allowed to come to school, then count those absences against her!! that is rediculous. they have to excuse them. it's not like she was expelled... i would be mad too. sorry.

rinse her hair in apple cider vinegar every day for the next month or so. it's smelly........ but harmless......... and the lice hate it. it's much more gentle than any lice shampoo, and a lot less hassle than getting lice again. we lived in an school that got a lot of lice when i was a kid, so that's what we did and it was pretty successful.

i was homeschooled from 2nd grade until i graduated from high school at age 16 and started college early. i think it was a great experience, and had lots of benefits. there were some things i missed out on, like high school drama and peer pressure... but i'm ok with that. :) i was able to learn at my own pace, travel alot, and pursue the things i was most interested in. feel free to send me a personal message about it if you have questions.

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When my daughter was in elementary school, there was one family and every year it was the same thing. Unfortunately, the little girl always ended up in my daughters class, and same story, same song every year. Our school took measures when lice took up residence. A note went home to all kids in the class, the carpets were vacuumed in that class every day, and coats etc were hung at the kids seats. i.e. no co-mingling of belongings. Because of space, the students normally shared a "cubbie" for their coats, once lice appeared this was no longer used. The principal and/or school nurse should be way more on top of this situation that they are. I am unsure about the absences, as thankfully, we never had lice. Seems to me that it should be an excused absence. Lice is contagious, just as the flu....

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You would homeschool your kid because she got lice, can't come back til it is cleared up and can't get perfect attendance anymore? I'm really hoping that is a knee-jerk reaction to being angry over the situation.

First of all, people need to realize that having lice isn't a sign of being 'dirty' or 'unkempt'. While lice is an absolute nuisance and pain in the butt, please understand that you or your child didn't do anything wrong nor are you lacking hygiene. In elementary schools these sorts of things happen.

Secondly, it should make sense that your daughter (or any other child) does not return to school until she is lice-free. Let's think about this for a minute - say your daughter's classmate has lice and comes back to school before they are clear. Lice are pretty mobile and can move from person to person. Would it be fair to your daughter to have the classmate with lice come back and possible spread it to your daughter and/or other classmates? Now that's something that would make me very upset: allowing the lice problem to spread and continue without taking due diligence and keeping those with lice home until the problem is solved.

As far as the locker - ask for a separate locker or space to store any belongings that are worn. You might get better results if you approach it from the perspective that "I'm concerned that my daughter will either get re-infested or that other children will be afraid that she will pass on lice by having the contents in close quarters". You definitely have a case to argue your point for an individual locker.

As far as the letter about it being unexcused absences - schedule a conference with the principal and let him/her know that if they are denying her the opportunity to attend due to what they conceive to be a 'health issue' (because if they are not letting her come to school because of lice, it is a health issue), then it is clearly unacceptable to deem the absences unexcused. Has your daughter been to see the doctor due to the lice? If so, have the doctor write a medical note and they will not be able to argue that (trust me, I work in a school!).

Having lice can be really upsetting and disruptive, so my heart goes out to you. I wish people would stop thinking that having lice means someone is dirty, uneducated, or doesn't take care of personal hygiene. Those are unfair stereotypes and it is the kid who suffers the most, even though they are typically innocent bystanders who get dragged into the mess. Do anything and everything you can to rid your child and your home of the lice. Good luck to you and hope it passes soon!

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Hi J.,
I understand your anger towards this issue. First of all, how do three children even share one locker? That might be what I would be most upset about. It is unsanitary, and probably how she came in contact with the lice. However, I do understand why they had to send your daughter home and keep her home. It's the only way they can clear up the problem. However, if it is such a problem at the school, they should consider closing the school for a day, like a Friday, and having the custodial staff do a very thorough clean of the entire school. This would give all the students 3 days to get rid of the lice, and then all students could return on a Monday to a clean school, and then the nurse could do a head check and continue to send home any kids with lice. That is a reasonable way to handle the situation. I think maybe your anger is because the school did not handle such a huge and nasty problem properly. Good luck resolving your problems! I would be upset too!

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This will be a problem till Christmas break. We have routine issues with head lice at our school which usually ends over Christmas break if the parents are doing their part to get rid of them from the home. I would go to the prinicpal or the school and ask them if this is far thank the absents are unexcused as it's not really your daughter's fault. It's still an absence just not unexcused. I hope you are getting the work she is missing and helping her keep up with her work. It's so hard to miss and keep up with the class when you return.
The sharing of a locker is precisely where she is getting it/ IAt our school as soon as there is an out break the kids keep their coats and backpacks with them all day. I know when guns and knives are making their way into schools your school may frown on this but go to a board meeting. Sumitt in writting what you want to say and be firm about it. Tellthem if you cannot get help with controlling the expenses of getting rid of these critters your going to pull her. Also contact your PTA or PTO President and have it discussed at a genberal as well as a board meeting. BTW you do not need to be on the board to go and bring things up. They should welcome your input. They have children there too and maybe haven't been hit yet but will if it keeps up. Also learn to know what nits look like our school nurse thought one students dandruff was nits. Her mother who does hair had to come in and show her. I got it once and could not get rid of the nits. I could not gte the comb through my extremely thick hair and I refused to cut my waist length hair.I just reshanmpooed my hair did it twice and never had an out break again. Our local pool was where the kids were getting it that year. Picking up the wrong towels and cobs. Our pool now checks every head and you don't get in if infected.

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Me personally, I would have already been to the school board. I would not worry about people thinking you are the problem parent, you are trying to protect your child, that to me is a caring, concerned parent!!

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I have been told by a schol nurse that lice cannot hold onto hair that has hair gel, or hairspray on it. Makes sense.

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It seems to be real bad this year......I think almost all schools are having problems with it.

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You need to go right to the school board. I have experience w/lice w/ my kids & I will pray for you. I found every aspect of dealing with it as very stressful & now I have a habit of checking my kids hair.

I believe the fact that a child with eggs in his/her hair is an Ohio State Board of Health law. The school system cannot punish a student for following a state law. Any child in the world can get lice. No one should be punished.
Best Wishes.

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You could have your daughter put her all her things in a plastic bag before putting her things in the locker, Have
her practice at home a few times before trying it at school.
It's just a thought, I believe I've heard of people doing something like that before. Good Luck. If that doesn't work
maybe you could try talking to the board of Health. Hope
you get something worked out.


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I would agree that something is not right with this school. For example, school lockers are supposed to serve purposes of allowing a place items for storage, and security is an issue. Each child should have their own locker. Many schools have a policy on having only 1 child per locker. It seems odd that the school cannot make this accommodation.

Additionally, there is a severe health risk at this school. Since so many children have come up with lice, I am surprised the school has not been shut down for decontamination. This is a severe health risk with more than 25% of the school population being infected. I would contact the Health Administration and maybe the CDC and see what the school responsibilities are. Children are supposed to be excused for absense when sick similar to work policies. They receive 1 absense for consecutive days.

I would definitely remove my children from that school. If a parent fears for the child's health or safety, the absenses should be excused. I would look through the school policies to see what the exact rules are for your district as this is the rule for Fort Wayne Community Schools(FWCS).

I would definitely consider busing your child to a different school. In FWCS district, children can be bused to any school the parents desire to send them and transportation will transfer them daily. Most people do not know this. I live on the North side of Fort Wayne, and I send my pre-schooler to a school on the South side. He is a special needs child, but I believe these busing and schooling options are available for every child.

I am not sure if private schools offer busing. Sometimes there are before and after school programs you can use instead of a daycare. This removes the need for public transportation. Many private programs offer sliding scale tuition and payment programs.

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Well J. in this world there are all kinds of situations we have to deal with. Parents that doesnt have any knowledge of lice and etc. But I my self would always take in a box of plastic garbage bags in the beginning of the year my kids would start using them on day 1 of school.I did this 1 year asked the teacher if she would start allowing the students to use them she said yes and that year there were 0 cases in that class. I also bought spray when i heard there was some cases in my kids class, they had carpet in the room and a couch.Get on the computer and find some solution of what to use to help the situation, The lice shampoo i heard is not effective too much any more......

1 mom found this helpful

I would have to say the reason that it keeps happening and there are so many is cases is that the school itself is contaminated. They tell you when you ahve lice at home you should pack up thier stuffed animals and bedding and you need to do "bombing" to that stuff. When i was in third grade we had an outbreak at my school, the kids who had it were sent home and unable to return until it was gone. All I can say is that I think the school needs to do some bombing itself to make sure they are not in the school, they could be living in the carpet. I would take this to the school board. I am guessing you are not the only parent who is upset about this, if you know any of the other children who have been sent home talk to thier parents and see how they feel about it. And if they are as upset as you are go the the board as a group.

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Four kids per locker??? That seems very excessive. No wonder they have such a huge lice problem. I don't blame you a bit for taking the school on. Sharing a locker is not so unusual, but four kids per locker is asking for trouble. If you aer up for it, take it to the board. Once the issue has been confronted and more parents are aware, the more they will be forced to do something. Communicable diseases are nothing to joke around with.

As far as unexcused absences go, I never thought the perfect attendance thing was worth it. I think it is more important to occasionally miss so as not to infect other kids. But as long as you are dealing with overcrowded lockers, you might as well go full gusto and see if you can get the absences commuted to excused, since it wasn't her choice or yours to keep her home. That seems like a dumb policy IMO. Good luck!

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I remember the lice routine! Thankfully I had boys with fairly short hair so it wasn't as big a deal getting rid of them as it is with a girl's long hair. It was definitely a big inconvenience since all their bedding, recently-worn clothing, jackets, hats all had to be washed. My entire laundry room floor was covered with piles of laundry. And then there was the special shampoo for both of them and then the fine comb to remove all the bugs, nits, eggs, and whatever. I wasn't angry with the boys or even the school. It is one of those things that happen. It did no good to be mad at anyone for it happening. When kids are young and play and live close toghther as children in grade school do, this sort of thing happens occasionally.

However, I would be irritated at the attendance policy that gave your children unexcused absences due to the de-lousing time it took for you to be sure your kids were louse-free. They should have been excused since it was a problem that they more than likely picked up from school. With as huge a problem as it seems that the school had with lice outbreak, I'm surprised that they didn't close school for a couple days, telling all the kids to remove everything from their lockers, so that they could thoroughly decontaminate/de-louse the entire school and all the lockers.

It is common in many of the grade schools that I sub teach in for at least 2 students to share lockers. There are simply not enough lockers for each student to have their own. This is usually not a problem in most cases.

This too shall pass. It is not the end of the world to have had lice. You are a good mom and took care of the problem. Just relax now, take calm actions that you feel are important to you, but choose your battles carefully.

Good luck!

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A way to prevent reoccurance with her is to wash her hair with tea tree oil...my daughers class had an outbreak and i use this faithfully...she has not gotten it, knock on wood ;-) The little suckers dont like tea tree...i use california baby shampoo and body wash.

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Sharing lockers is asking for trouble, especially during colder weather. Head lice are easily transferred from one kid's hat (or fur trim on a hood) to another's. At minimum, I would insist that my child has her own locker, or keep her coat/hat separate from other kids' stuff during the school day.

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Check out www.ohva.org, which is public charter e-school, and rated number 1 in the state. It is tuition free, you are provided a loan computer and printer, sent a reimburse check for Internet connection, and sent the wonderful K12 curriculum (that is used nationwide), and all the teaching materials. You need to supply printer ink, paper, and other minor incidentals. You have to log attendance and average 2.5 hours/day for Kindergarten and 5 hours/day for older students, which is quite simple. You are the teacher, or anyone else who can share knowledge with the children. You are assigned a teacher to act as someone to supply answers, help give you teaching suggestions, or anything else you need. You need to attend 4 face-to-face events per year, which are great fun like rollerskating (at a reduced rate), school picnics, or other events. Students participate in the state-wide testing process, just as all other public school students do. Really a terrific system with PLENTY of opportunity for child socialization, which seems to be everyone's main criticism. (Actually, when I went to school and I doubt it has changed, I was emphatically told, "Sit down, and be quiet--you are not here to socialize.")

Best wishes,

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I had this problem with my oldest in 3rd grade. She was out so much....that she couldn't touch her head without being sent to the office. Seriously she be clean. and then have it again. By the end she had test anxiety. Her head would itch when she was nervous. She missed over 16 days.

then NOTHING IN THE SUMMER...within a week of start of school. Again. I tried everything. I finally bought a Robi comb. Seriouly a GOD SEND. I would go and do her hair daily before and after school. it helped. a pain but helped a lot. she only missed a week total. Her brother got sent home one day. he was also out a week. I started daily head checks.

nothing in the summer at all.

Then in 5th grade seriously it was back in 3 days. this time wasn't her. It was her baby sister 3. I saw it. treated and combed everyone for a month. Nothing came of it.

we found a shampoo from Snip its. It has kept them free of it constantly. I use it weekly. There is even a repelling spray. I spray their hair before school.

with scouts, school and cheerleading and volunteering we need all the help we can get

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I did not read through all the respondses, sorry, if I repeat.
At my son's school anyone with lice gets their backpack, coat,hat, any other clothing sent home in a GIANT ziploc bag. (they sell them at Walmart & similar places). They keep using the large bag for several days, or a week (not sure) Everything they transport to & from school travels in the bag and stays in the bag at school. Zipped!

Another tip I've heard (not sure if it works, but worth a try)
Use mousse or gel or hair spray on your child's hair all the time. Lice cannot attach to the hair strands when the hair is 'protected'.
Good luck

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