The ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ of School Health

1200931992We here at Boston Daily thought “don’t ask, don’t tell” was simply a hold-over from Bill Clinton’s presidency, much like “I didn’t inhale” and “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.” But the doctrine doesn’t apply to homosexual members of the military alone. Lice-infested students in Brookline were treated the same way until late last week.

On Wednesday, the Brookline Tab reported that the town’s schools had no universal lice policy, and that some schools allowed students with nits to come to class. Not only that, but parents of other children in the classroom weren’t notified their child’s classmate had lice.

Understandably, parents were not happy.

“It defies common courtesy, let alone common sense,” said the mother of a Lawrence School second-grader, who was shocked to find the school nurse would not be informing her son’s classmates after her family was infested with lice.

But experts say that it is worse on the kid with nits to miss school than to show up and scratch at his head all day.

“We’re vilifying kids, we’re punishing kids for being kids,” said Rich Pollack, a researcher at the Harvard School of Public Health who has urged schools to keep lice infestations confidential. “The more social a kid is, the more likely he is going to be encountering head lice.”

It’s been a while since we were in elementary school, but we don’t recall rubbing heads with kids on the playground. And if one of our classmates gave us head lice, we’d probably just avoid him on the monkey bars for a while after that.

Parents were so outraged by the policy that by Friday school officials changed their tune. Now students who have head lice will be sent home — and stigmatized by fellow students. Just as it should be.