The occurrence of head lice is the most common insect infestation in humans throughout the world. In Queensland schools head lice are a challenge and infestation occurs mainly in children of primary school age. However, head lice infestation may affect people of any age, nationality, gender or socio-economic status. It is as much a social issue as a health or educational issue, and the way that it is approached can have significant influence on a student’s emotional, social and educational development. It is contagious and untreated head lice can become very distracting and upsetting for children who are unable to concentrate in class due to the itchiness of their scalp.
It is critical to identify head lice early and take steps to eliminate it for the comfort of the children and to stop it spreading throughout the class and school. The best outcome is achieved when school staff and parents work in partnership.
Parents have prime responsibility for the detection and treatment of head lice.
Schools have a responsibility for minimising risk to school community members of being affected by head lice while at schools, but parents have responsibility for prevention, detection and treatment of head lice among their own children.
When a teacher suspects a child has head lice, the teacher will act promptly, following the agreed procedure.
The first step is to request the child go to the office where the child will be privately told they may have head lice. A staff member will inspect the child's head and if head lice are evident (live lice and/or eggs) then the parents will be phoned immediately and asked to collect their child and to treat their child's head.
A general letter of notification will be sent to families of all children in the class, including the child who has been sent home. This notification also outlines Queensland health's recommendation procedure for treating head lice. Assistance will be offered to parents who have difficulty in eliminating head lice in their family.
While it is easy for children to get head lice, there can be a stigma attached to it. Mindful of this, any head lice occurrence is to be managed by all parties in a way that is respectful to the sensitivities of the situation and the individual child and their family.
Parents are expected to ensure that their children do not attend school with untreated head lice. To achieve this, it is reasonable to expect that parents will: