BACKGROUND: Tinea capitis, a fungal infection of the scalp, is of increasing public health importance, and Trichophyton tonsurans has become the primary causative agent in North America. OBJECTIVES: To determine the prevalence of dermatophyte-positive scalp cultures among elementary schoolchildren in Cleveland, Ohio, describe predisposing factors, and measure the antifungal susceptibility of isolates collected. OBSERVATIONS: A total of 937 children from 8 Cleveland elementary schools were cultured for the presence of dermatophytes; 122 children (13%), all of whom were African American, had dermatophyte-positive cultures of the scalp. Sixty percent of cases were asymptomatic, indicating a carrier state. Race, scaling, and the use of anti-dandruff shampoo were associated with increased likelihood of infection. T tonsurans was the only organism isolated (except 1 Microsporum canis isolate). All isolates were susceptible to fluconazole, griseofulvin, itraconazole, and terbinafine. CONCLUSIONS: T tonsurans was the predominant dermatophyte isolated. Further multicenter studies are needed to confirm the predominance of dermatophyte-positive scalp cultures among African American children and to determine modifiable and preventable risk factors.