The schools say "maybe". I contacted a representative from the Edmonton Public School board to find out their official policy. I was told that they follow the guidelines of Alberta Health Services. I asked what those policies were and, more specifically, if a school could send a child home or refuse a child admittance to school due to head lice. The answer was, "It depends". I contacted Edmonton Catholic Schools and the person I spoke to didn't know of any official policy in place regarding head lice.
If you would like to know the suggested school guidelines of Alberta Health Services, you can find them here. In these guidelines, it states that the parents of the child with head lice should be notified. It then states, very vaguely, that "The child can return to school once the head lice has been treated."
This statement is open to interpretation. What do schools define as proper treatment? Some schools may require you to wash the child's hair in a pesticidal shampoo. Some may require the removal of every live bug, and others may require the removal of all nits. One thing you can be sure of - if a teacher finds that your child has head lice, the school should not be calling you to pick up your child immediately - AHC's document also states that "the child may remain in class until the end of the day."
My opinion? I think that if you deal with it properly, head lice should never be a problem that causes your child to miss school. I think that if you show the school that you are taking your child's head lice problem seriously and have made a concerted effort in both lice removal and infestation prevention, then the school authorities should not (and possibly can not) refuse to allow your child in the classroom. However, if the school finds that a child or family is constantly crawling in head lice, or has an inordinate number of re-infestations, they may question any claims of the parents who say that they are dealing with it effectively. At this point, the school may contact other authorities, such as Child Protective Services, to help you to deal with the problem.
Would I send my own child to school if one morning I discovered that he/she had head lice? Probably. I need to go to work in the daytime and I save my sick days for when there is an actual illness in the family. (If I didn't have to work outside the home, I might keep my child at home - but understand that this is a preference and NOT a necessity.) I would first use my proper metal lice comb to quickly comb out as many bugs as possible. I would also pick out as many eggs as I could before school started. Then, I would put my child's long hair up in a ponytail or braids and remind the child not to share hats, brushes, etc. I would then inform the school that my child had head lice and tell them how I am dealing with the problem. Then when the child returned home, I would spend a fair bit of my evening dealing with the problem more extensively - checking, combing and picking until not one egg or bug could be found on my child's head. I would budget time into the next morning to repeat this process.
My children have had head lice. (Again, they bring it home from school because I don't bring my work home with me) . Because I do a very quick head lice check as part of our DAILY routine, I am always able to "nip it in the bud" - it is a small problem that I am able to deal with quickly and effectively. And if you do this too, then your child should never be in a position to miss school over the inconvenience of head lice.