BERRYVILLE — A protocol is being developed to keep Clarke County Public Schools personnel from having to scratch their noggins when students have head lice.
Winchester, Frederick County, Warren County and Loudoun County school divisions all have lice protocols. The lack of a protocol in Clarke County’s schools was mentioned during a recent meeting of their School Health Advisory Board (SHAB).
Head lice are parasitic insects that attach themselves to a person’s head, eyebrows and eyelashes and then feed on their blood. Lice spread when someone’s hair comes into contact with the hair of an infected person. But despite being a nuisance, lice are not known to spread disease. Both prescription and over-the-counter medications are available to treat infestations, according to a federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website.
Children are more likely to get head lice than adults because they are prone to get into each other’s “personal space” and share items such as hair brushes and clothes, information online shows.
Superintendent Chuck Bishop told the Clarke County School Board last week he is drafting a protocol to present to the schools’ policy committee for consideration in December.
Bishop did not remember the last time a student had lice, but he said it happens occasionally.
“We could go for weeks, if not months, without a student having lice, or we could have several cases at one time,” he wrote in an email to The Winchester Star after the meeting.
Over the years, CDC guidelines have been “loosely followed” when lice were discovered on students, Bishop said.
Those guidelines state that students with live head lice do not need to leave school early. Rather, they can go home at the end of the day and return to school after beginning appropriate treatments.
Generally, when lice has been discovered on a student, the school nurse has informed his or her parents. Sometimes a parent has come to pick up a student, but sometimes the student has been allowed to remain in school for the remainder of the day, according to Bishop.
“That seemed to be sufficient for the most part,” he said, “but a formal protocol will serve as a foundation for consistency.”
The protocol will include these recommendations by the SHAB:
Sending to students’ homes a standard letter about head lice several times each year. One recently was sent, Bishop told the school board.
Having a more in-depth pamphlet about lice for distribution to parents.
Seeking to have “lice kits” available for the families of students who contract lice.
Limiting or removing classroom furnishings, such as pillows and couches, that may enable lice to spread.