When I go to schools to lecture on lice I frequently get questions on what to do at school and what the school itself can do. These are a few of my suggestions.
1. School and District Policies - If you find that your child has lice, find out what your school and district policies are. Many of them differ. For example, in the district in which I live, they follow the State of Michigan Guidelines. However, many schools within our district have a different policy. Other districts in my area also do not follow State of Michigan Guidelines. This is why it is important to know exactly what your school guidelines are.
2. School Communication – How does your school communicate that a student has contracted lice? Do they just tell the class? Do they check the entire class? Do they notify the grade? Do they notify the whole school? My suggestion is if a student in the class has contracted lice, then the class gets a paper letter stating that lice has been found in the class. This will enable parents to be more proactive. An email should then also be sent to the entire grade level as many students in the same grade do comingle at recess and lunch.
3. School Precautions – If a student has contracted lice, I would advise the school for the next 10 days (so 2 school weeks) to disinfect that classroom daily. As you may or may not know, you drop up to 500 hairs off your body a day. The nits can live off the body until they hatch. Once hatched, they will look for the nearest head on which to feed. Live adult bugs can walk around for 10 days looking for food. As at home, any soft pillow or beanbag chair should be bagged up and put away for 3 weeks. If there is a couch in the room, it should be vacuumed off daily. This may mean that the teacher should have a small hand held vacuum so that they can do it. Or parents could even volunteer to help. This may help the school out a bit. The more schools and parents work together, the better.
4. School Bussing – Ok so this is a touchy subject, but I do know for a fact that my child’s lice problem did start on a bus. Now that one was a charter bus, but every day children ride to and from school on the bus and each bus probably makes multiple runs to multiple schools multiple times a day. I am not saying for everyone to panic, but I do feel that maybe busses should get a good wiping down at least a few times a week in order to make sure there are no bugs running rampant.
5. School Wide Lice Checks – I can’t tell you how many times I get people asking my advice about this. Believe it or not, I am actually against it. I have spoken to so many parents who have openly admitted that they have been a part of a lice checking committee and have had no idea what to look for. Also, School Officials have much more pressing issues to handle than to check every student in the school for lice. I have also been to schools where they have a suspected case of lice and it turns out the student has bad dandruff or food in their hair.
6. Report, Report, Report – If your child contracts lice at any time, even over a weekend, please report it to the school. If your friend’s child or even an acquaintance’s child contracts lice, encourage them to report it to the office. In this case, knowledge is power. The more the schools are told children have lice, the more everyone can do to combat it. I can’t tell you the number of times I have heard that a client has reported it to the office only to be told they are the only one. Let’s face it; it didn’t just magically appear one day at school. It started somewhere.
7. Parental Communication – Parents need to communicate with each other. If your child has contracted lice, figure out where they have been in the last 2 weeks and who they played with and then inform the parents of those children. You can send out a blanket email stating you have lice, that you are being proactive and treating it, that you are more than willing to help them check their children (since you now know what you are looking for) and you will do your best to answer any questions. You can even go as far as emailing the parents in your child’s class and stating you have lice. This may help alleviate any anxiety that anyone may have. Don’t be ashamed that your child has lice. It does happen. The problem is, of course, that you kept your child way too clean and therefore the little buggers (pardon the pun) found a home! Now you are being the tough landlord and evicting them for squatting.
8. Form a Lice Resource Committee – Parents can voluntarily give the school permission to have anyone who has contracted lice their number. Lice can be very isolating. People feel lost and have no idea what to do or where to start. By having a list of people they can contact, this will give parents a place to start. By being on such a list, you can give advice as to where to begin, what worked for you. You can even volunteer to go over and give a hand on all the cleaning and laundry. Grab a bag of laundry and take it home and do it for that person. You have no idea what kindness that is. Again, if you have any questions, you can call The Lice Lady.