Sea to Sky schools get rid of mandatory lice checks

The Sea to Sky school district has made some changes to its policies on head lice.

Students will no longer be subject to mandatory head lice checks at school. Although staff say the assembly line method of insect inspection hasn’t been used for a while, it’s officially off the table.

“The biggest thing that we added [to the policy] is that the dignity of the students and their families shall be respected,” said Phillip Clarke, the school district’s director of instruction.

Students with lice will no longer be asked to stay home, according to the new policy, 

An annoyance, not a health risk

Public health authorities like Fraser Health don’t recognize lice as a health risk, but as a nuisance, which is one of the key reasons the district’s policies were due for a change, said Clarke.

Because head lice don’t spread disease and aren’t a sign of poor hygiene, he says there’s no longer the need for “antiquated practices.”
“I don’t think [public lice checks at school] are socially appropriate, but most importantly, it’s not medically necessary,” Clarke said. “There’s just no reason to do that.”

Instead, he says the district — which covers Squamish, Whistler and Pemberton — will educate staff and parents about the early detection, treatment, and prevention of head lice infestations.

Students with lice will no longer be asked to stay home from public schools in Squamish, Whistler and Pemberton. (Shutterstock)

‘It’s not a big deal’

Knowing all about lice is Barbara Pattison’s job. 

The owner of head lice removal service Lice911 says although it spreads very easily through direct hair-to-hair contact, the idea of a kid coming to school with lice doesn’t need to cause as much alarm as it has in the past.

The trick, she says, is simply covering the hair.

“If their hair is tied back in a tight bun or close to their head, it shouldn’t spread,” said Pattison.

She says September and October are the months when head lice are most prevalent so parents need to be vigilant when checking their children’s hair, especially if their school district is no longer offering that option in its schools.

And if you do find lice on your child’s head, Pattison says it’s important to remember that “it’s not a big deal” as long as you properly treat it.

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