State Law and School Policies Addressing Head Lice
Laws, Rules, and Policies
There is no law in Texas that addresses excluding children with head lice from school. DSHS does not have authority to impose a set policy on the exclusion or inclusion of students with head lice in school districts. However, DSHS does urge school districts to ensure that its policies and procedures do not cause children to miss class unnecessarily. In addition, school districts’ policies and procedures should not encourage the embarrassment and isolation of students who suffer from repeated cases of head lice.
Lice are not a public health threat. They do not carry disease. Therefore, the Department of State Health Services does not monitor or track cases of head lice. It is up to each school district to create head lice policies and procedures, if they so choose…and some do. Talk to the school nurse or someone else in charge to find out what the school policy and procedures are in your school district. Refer to the topic "Setting Policies for School Districts" that appears on this page for policy suggestions.
According to a research article published by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) in 2015, "No healthy child should be excluded from or allowed to miss school time because of head lice or nits. Pediatricians may educate school communities that no-nit policies for return to school should be abandoned." Information for schools is located at the end of the research article.
Source: Head Lice - Pediatrics May 2015, 135 (5) e1355 - e1365 http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/135/5/e1355
Notice to Parents
During the 2017 Legislative Session, Senate Bill 1566 passed into law and states the following: "The board of trustees of an independent school district shall adopt a policy requiring a school nurse of a public elementary school who determines or otherwise becomes aware that a child enrolled in the school has lice shall provide written or electronic notice of that fact to:
(1) the parent of the child with lice as soon as practicable but not later than 48 hours after the administrator or nurse, as applicable, determines or becomes aware of that fact; and
(2) the parent of each child assigned to the same classroom as the child with lice not later than the fifth school day after the date on which the administrator or nurse, as applicable, determines or becomes aware of that fact.”
Additional information about confidentiality is included within the law.
A “no-nit” policy is one that excludes students from school based on the presence of lice eggs, whether or not live lice are present. The Department of State Health Services (DSHS) does not recommend a “no-nit” policy. We do recognize, however, that school districts may adopt one as a local option.
Head lice infestation is a social issue not a health threat. “No-nit” policies place a disproportionate amount of emphasis on head lice management than on real health concerns, which should be a higher priority. This over-emphasis can lead to unproductive use of time by school staff and parents, missed classes, unnecessary absences, and parents missing work.
Setting Policies for School Districts
Creating school district policies and procedures should be a joint effort with the district’s school health advisory council, local health care providers, district administrators, school nurses, parents, and other stakeholders. Remember, there is no law in Texas that addresses excluding a child with head lice from school. School districts and campuses can create their own guidelines by developing written policies that:
- Facilitate efficient and consistent implementation by all campuses,
- Protect school nurses, teachers, and other school staff,
- Create peace of mind for administrators and parents, and
- Ensure all children are treated in a fair and equitable manner.