Lice an itchy subject at USD 408
Every year, USD 408 school nurse Jane King sends at least one or two letters out to parents, explaining that “a few children” in the school have been diagnosed with head lice. Most of the time, King receives few questions from concerned parents. But, in the past couple years, she said people have become more worried about the threat of nits in the school system.
And, she said, it gets worse when young parents receive the school district’s letter.
“Lice can be an itchy subject,” she said. “They just don’t understand how common lice really is. You kind of get this creepy feeling when you talk about it, but it’s something that is fairly routine around here. People think that the bugs can jump from person to person, but that’s not true. In my experience, they can only be transferred through the sharing of clothing — or other materials.”
Usually, King said, the issue is concentrated in the lower grades — especially in kindergarten — where students are more likely to put on the wrong coat, hat or gloves. To be safe, the school nurse said the office conducts yearly lice checks, where they investigate each child’s head for nits. If they see no evidence of a problem, the child is free to go back to school. If they do find nits, they are immediately dismissed for the day, so the child can receive the proper treatment.
“We have a no-nit policy concerning head lice,” she said. “A student won’t be allowed back in school until they pass a nit-free inspection. This practice stops the breeding ground and allows us to maintain some control over the matter. It’s something we don’t tolerate. We don’t want it to spread.”
Once a child is diagnosed with head lice, a report is filed with the school district and then later given to the county health department. After that, King said it is the school’s duty to inform the other parents. If there are just one or two cases of a child having lice in a certain grade, she said she would just notify the parents with children in those grades. But if it is more widespread, she sends a letter to all of the parents in the district.
“I can’t remember when I had to do that last,” she said. “It’s been well over two years.”
King suggests strongly that parents read the packet of information that gets sent home with their child. But, she said, parents should not be alarmed to receive the notice. Instead, they should wash all of their child’s clothing and bedding.
“It makes things a lot simpler in the long run,” she said. “If you don’t take precaution, your child might get infected — and that’s much more of a hassle than doing the extra load of laundry.”