School District Role in Managing Head Lice at School

  • The below measures for safeguarding the school community from head lice are based on the Infectious Disease Control Guide for School Staff from the State of Washington Department of Health & the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction in conjunction with current best evidence-based practice.  The Snoqualmie Valley School District Health Services Department is responsible for carrying out these measures and follows operating guidelines to address the actions needed to support this procedure.


    Control of Spread of Head Lice

    • Education is the primary means of controlling the spread of head lice in our district.  The school nurse will educate school personnel and parent/guardians in recognizing and managing a head lice infestation.  As time allows, the school nurse will focus on head lice education for students.  Education will discourage students from close head-to-head contact with others & dispel lice myths.
    • Methods that have been studied and found NOT to be effective in controlling the spread of head lice:
      • Routine or periodic screening of an entire classroom or school has not been found to be an effective method in controlling the spread of head lice and therefore is not recommended but may be done at the discretion of the school nurse.
      • Per the CDC, spreading of lice by contact with inanimate objects (i.e shared objects such as headphones) and personal belongings may occur but is very uncommon. Head lice feet are specially adapted for holding onto human hair. Head lice would have difficulty attaching firmly to smooth or slippery surfaces like plastic, metal, polished synthetic leathers, and other similar materials.
      • Special cleaning of a classroom/area due to a student having head lice is not indicated because lice are dependent on a person’s body temperature and moisture for life and cannot survive off of the body for very long. It is not recommended that environmental sprays be used as these can be toxic if inhaled.
      • It is NOT recommended to prophylactically treat students due to exposure who do not show signs of head lice infestation.
      • Immediate or long-term exclusion of students with head lice is no longer recommended as an effective method for preventing the spread of head lice.
      • “No-nit” policies (for exclusion or as a condition of returning to school following having head lice) are not effective in controlling head lice outbreaks.

    Screening of Individual Students 

    • May be conducted when the school nurse receives a credible referral of suspected head lice from that student’s family, teacher, or other school employee.  Note that when a parent is requesting a check for their student, the nurse may request the parent to be present to train/educated them on how to screen for head lice.  Due to privacy issues, referrals other than from the above listed people (i.e.  other student’s parents) cannot be accepted as a basis for screening.   
    • Privacy of the student with, or with suspected, head lice will be maintained both with other students, families and staff.
    • Lice checks done by the school nurse are only a screening tool and do not replace a more thorough check that parents should be encouraged to do on a regular basis.
    • If evidence of active lice infestation is found on a student, the school nurse may choose to check close contacts for evidence of head lice.

    For Students with Head Lice

    • Students with live head lice can remain in class for the remainder of the day and ride the bus home (discretion by the school nurse however may be used regarding individual cases).  Head lice have typically been present on an individual for a month or more prior to discovery.  Based on the incidence of head lice, it is likely that head lice are present on some of the student population at any given time. 
    • Immediate or long-term exclusion is no longer recommended.  Students with live head lice can remain in class for the remainder of the day and ride the bus home.  Discretion by the school nurse however may be used regarding individual cases. 
    • The school nurse will follow up with the student and family to provide education on treatment options and to ensure that the infestation is being addressed appropriately until the infestation has ended. 
    • A student found to have an active lice infestation may return to school after proper treatment and no live lice are present. Nits may persist after initial treatment, therefore, students with nits should be allowed back in school. 

    Notification of Head Lice

    •  Parents/Guardians of students found to have a suspected active lice case will be notified by the school nurse and educated on the proper treatment options.
      • If parents have questions about lice or concern about infestation, they will be advised to consult with their healthcare provider to discuss the best treatment options.
      • With notification, it will be advised that all family members should be examined and treated, if needed, simultaneously to avoid re-infestation.  
    • Notification of classmates’ parents to the presence of known cases of head lice will not occur because  
      • There are likely students at school with head lice at any given time.  The CDC’s estimates 6 to 12 million cases of head lice occur per year in the United States most commonly on preschool- and elementary school-age children and their household members / caretakers.
      • Reporting of head lice to the school is not required by law and therefore the school is not aware of all of the known cases of head lice.
      • Even without disclosing the actual name, if another person can easily determine the identity of a child, then student privacy and confidentially has been violated per Federal law (FERPA/ HIPAA).