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Head lice are tiny six-legged insects that cling to the scalp and neck and feed on human blood. Each louse is about the size of a sesame seed and can be hard to spot. Lice eggs, called nits, are glued onto hairs near the scalp and can be even more difficult to see.

ADRIENNE WAHL

Parents are taking to social media to air out concerns about an itchy issue. But, at least in Chanute, they apparently have nothing to worry about.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment has reportedly changed its policy on head lice, now allowing children to stay in schools and daycares with the bugs. 

USD 413 School Nurse Kathy Martin explained that it has been the KDHE’s policy for at least a couple of years to not require kids to stay at home. The district’s policy has not changed in her 23-plus year tenure, she said. 

The district handbook states: “Students found to have head lice will be required to stay home until they have been treated with an anti-parasitic drug or shampoo. They will need to be checked by the school nurse before being allowed to return to class.”

Alisha Turner, who oversees the licensure of childcare providers for the Neosho County Health Department, said that it is at the discretion of the childcare provider to enact a policy regarding head lice. 

“We don’t regulate anything head lice or any illness, excluding guidelines,” she said. 

Martin said that she tries to be as proactive as possible to get ahead of any cases, which are few and far between in the district. Every year at the beginning of the year, she sends an email to all teachers reminding to try to prevent head to head contact between students by not having pillows and blankets during movies or reading time, and discouraging students from sharing anything that goes on their head: hats, combs, headbands and the like. She doesn’t have an issue with the state’s policy.

“My opinion is that education is very valuable,” she said. “Keeping kids out of school is something we have to balance.” 

There is not a designated amount of time that students have to miss if they do have head lice. Martin said that students who go home and get treated can return to school that same day. It is an excused absence for up to two days to give time for parents to treat their children. 

The district will also help parents needing assistance with treatments, in addition to providing education on preventing and treating.

“We want to educate to prevent this,” Martin said. “Any time a parent needs supplies like shampoo, spray, or a (lice) comb, we have the resources to provide that.” 

Martin recommends that parents periodically check their children’s heads, especially if they notice them itching. If parents have questions or concerns, they are more than welcome to get in touch with her.  

District Superintendent Dr. Kellen Adams said that the district tries to use the utmost discretion when it comes to the often-embarrassing parasite. 

“We do assist and we do help, absolutely,” he said. “My point is that no one knows what we’re doing and that is by design.” 

It is completely confidential when a student goes home for having head lice. Martin said that she may check a student’s siblings, but one case does not typically warrant a check for the student’s entire class. 

“Kids get singled out for having lice.” Adams said. “We don’t want to create that environment. It is a balancing act to protect what’s best for all students, but keeping that individual confidentiality to not embarrass a student.” 

 

 

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