Schools are not the cause of head lice; however, it is often a place that leads to several students being infected by the tiny bugs. An infected child can bring it to school, put their items in common areas with other students’ things or make head contact thus spreading the infestation. Legally, schools must provide a safe physical and emotional environment for their children.
Under education legislation in New Zealand, it is possible to stop a student who is not clean enough from attending school. It is not a suspension or expulsion. A concerned parent who sees a head lice problem at a school can request the head teacher take action, but only if they are aware of the student or potential students with head lice. The head teacher has to speak with the board, the student or student’s parents, and a Medical Officer to state the reason for a student to be precluded from school.
Should there be a significant problem that does not involve a known student who is unclean, a school can only send out information about body care and cleanliness. They can only warn parents of all students that there is a head lice problem. At this time a parent can request sick leave for their child to determine if they are infected. The school cannot conduct massive head searches. The parent can also request that more information be given out on head lice.