Head lice spread raises questions about school policies

DANE COUNTY, Wis. (WMTV)-- Head lice are making their rounds across Madison area schools, and a lice technician says district policies should better address the spread.

Patty Ziegler runs a lice-removing salon in Sun Prairie.

Patty Ziegler owns Bright Side salon in Sun Prairie.

“Right now I am seeing a big district-wide problem with increase in head lice cases,” Ziegler said about clients coming from the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD), in particular. “It’s spreading like crazy.”

An MMSD spokesperson said there is no increase in head lice cases.

Regarding classroom policies regarding lice, NBC15 was directed to an online resource designed for parents.

According to the resource under the tab “head lice,” an MMSD student found with live lice will stay in school that day while his or her parents are notified.

The resource says by the time lice are found, the risk of spreading is very low— as long as there is no head-to-head contact.

MMSD recommends parents of a student with lice should notify the school nurse, who will then screen “close school playmates, locker partners and siblings.”

Guidelines for the Janesville School District did not mention a notice to other students.

In the Middleton Cross Plains Area School District, a student found with live lice will stay in school for the remainder of the day, but letters may be sent home to other students. A spokesperson for the Oregon School District said the district "notifies families when there is lice in our schools."

A guideline on head lice from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction says, "Notification letters should be sent home to alert parents only if a high percentage of children in a classroom are infested with lice."

Experts say lice are not caused by poor hygiene. Live bugs are hard to find, so parents should look for eggs. Experts also recommend parents check the back of ears and around the nape of the neck.