The American Academy of Pediatrics released guidance Monday warning schools that barring children with head lice from returning to class may be a violation of their civil rights.
According to the new recommendations, medical providers should “educate and reassure affected individuals and caregivers that head lice are neither a health hazard nor a sign of poor hygiene and are not responsible for the spread of any disease.”
- “Despite this knowledge, there is significant stigma resulting from head lice infestations in high-income countries, resulting in children and adolescents being ostracized from their schools, friends, and other social events,” the guidelines continued. “Head lice can be psychologically stressful to the affected individual.”
- “Medical providers should educate school communities that no-nit policies for return to school should be abandoned, because such policies would have negative consequences for children’s or adolescents’ academic progress, may violate their civil rights, and stigmatize head lice as a public health hazard.”
In recent years, public health authorities have been accused of prioritizing destigmatization over more tangible medical crises.
- Don Weiss, director of surveillance for the New York City health department’s Bureau of Communicable Disease, expressed frustration in June with the kid-glove messaging about the recent outbreak of the monkeypox virus.
- “This disease is entirely preventable had we the courage to send out prevention messages. We seem paralyzed by the fear of stigmatizing this disease while we totally ignore the epidemiology,” he wrote to colleagues in an email, which he also posted to his personal website.
- Meanwhile, the WHO is considering alternative names for the monkeypox that avoid the current moniker’s purportedly “racist” and “homophobic” connotations.