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Information about pediculosis (head lice)

At Hastings and Prince Edward District School Board we have established a vision of all students being prepared and empowered for the possibilities of today and tomorrow. Achieving Excellence & Equity and Well-Being are priorities within our 2015-2020 Strategic Plan. One of our goals is to create welcoming, inclusive, safe and accepting learning environments that optimize students’ potential. We are proud to be a public education provider accessible to all and to be leaders in public education.

We believe parents are key partners in their children’s education. At Hastings and Prince Edward District School Board we respect and value those partnerships. The intent of our work is to always improve educational experiences and well-being for all students.

Part of our responsibility as system leaders is to insist on the use of the best available research and other evidence to inform decisions. Administrative procedures are reviewed on a regular cycle to ensure they are relevant and based on current, sound research and evidence. All Hastings and Prince Edward District School Board administrative procedures are posted on the board website at www.hpeschools.ca and can be publicly accessed.

The most recent revisions to Procedure 321: Pediculosis in Schools were made based on:

  • alignment with the Hastings and Prince Edward District School Board 2015-2020 Strategic Plan
  • alignment with the Board Improvement Plan for Student Achievement and Well-Being: All students attending every day and engaged in learning www.hpeschools.ca/ec/services/cst/ (PDF)
  • current scientific and medical research including the Canadian Pediatric Society and the BC Centre for Disease Control (refer to the PDF link below)
  • current research on regular attendance at school and the connection to student achievement and well-being http://www.hpedsb.on.ca/ec/services/scswbs/attendance.html
  • consultation with Hastings and Prince Edward Public Health (refer to the PDF link below)
  • input from the board’s mental health lead, attendance counsellors and the supervisor of child and youth counsellors
  • input from superintendents of education and members of senior administration

Letter of support from Hastings Prince Edward Public Health (PDF)

Pediculosis (head lice) Reference Documents (2 MB, PDF)

The current research and evidence, as well as the recommendation of experts in the medical and mental health professions, are clear that a “no nit” procedure is neither necessary nor supported. Excluding students from attending school based on this evidence does not reflect a commitment to equity or to the mandate of public education to be accessible to all students.

We acknowledge that an infestation of head lice is inconvenient and that it is a nuisance for families. We have connected with other school boards who have had this process in place for three or four years to determine whether they may have seen an increase in instances of head lice. This is not the case. We also acknowledge that working with students to avoid head-to-head contact or from sharing hats, combs or brushes can contribute to a reduction in cases of head lice. To that end, we believe that a partnership with parents to work both at school and at home is valuable.

The revisions to this procedure are based on the scientific and medical evidence and recommendations. While administrative procedures do not require consultation with parents, we value and respect our families.

We made a commitment to openly communicate the revisions to the procedure. Notices were sent home through school newsletters and information was provided from local health units in order to try to dispel the myths and misinformation which are prevalent with regard to head lice.

We have also followed up on the concern expressed by parents about the possibility of secondary infection due to scratching connected to head lice. Through Hastings Prince Edward Public Health we were able to access a literature scan of medical research on head lice and secondary infections. The literature scan was not limited geographically and covers the last 10 years. It did not result in any articles which indicate a significant increased risk of secondary infection from head lice. The findings of the literature scan are included in the above link to Pediculosis Reference Documents.

Questions have been raised about variations in implementing the revised procedure in schools across the board. In any instance where senior administration is made aware of a specific concern, the school group superintendent follows up with the school principal. Consistent application is our intention with the knowledge and understanding that in working with children and families there may be extenuating or emergency circumstances that occur and that schools respond to the best of their ability.

Contrary to the suggestion that the issue is not being monitored, processes are in place to: inform parents about potential screening activities through the school year;  establish guidelines for screeners/volunteers; provide training for screening; and to notify families with children who have live lice and classes or buses connected to that infestation. A treatment plan checklist must be signed by a parent and returned to the school. It is important to note that schools are required to establish and maintain a head lice management plan.

Schools continue to notify parents where live lice are present in the classroom setting based on checks. We continue to send information home to parents to outline the process to address any infestations of head lice. Supports are in place for families who may require assistance to access appropriate products and/or help with the process of carrying out control measures in the home.

Some concerns have also been expressed about the safety of the products recommended to treat head lice. The well-being of each individual is contingent upon a personal set of circumstances. As educators, we encourage parents who have questions or concerns about treatment to seek the advice of their physician or pharmacist to ensure that they are accessing appropriate products for their children.

We believe that coordinated efforts among home, school and the community are the key to managing infestations of head lice. We also believe that all students should attend school every day in order to maximize their opportunity for success. As part of attending school we respect students’ rights to privacy, dignity and cultural sensitivity.

The revisions made to Procedure 321: Pediculosis in Schools, effective January 2016, are based on current research, evidence and the expertise of medical and mental health professionals. The procedure will be reviewed in November 2020 or sooner if new scientific or medical evidence emerges. Until that time, no changes will be made.

Parents who have concerns should continue to communicate with the school principal. We are committed to addressing individual concerns that may arise and working with parents to support their children’s achievement and well-being.

For more information, please contact:
Kerry Donnell, Communications Officer, 613-966-1170 or 1 800 267-4350, extension 2354, kdonnell@hpedsb.on.ca