Education-reform mandates like the No Child Left Behind law are putting a contentious new spin on a classroom issue that makes parents' skin crawl: head lice. Schools used to take a hard line on the sesame-seed-sized parasites, which suck human blood and glue their eggs to individual hairs. At the first sign of an outbreak, pupils got scalp checks. Those with lice were immediately banished from the classroom until all lice and eggs -- known as nits -- were gone.
But to the dismay of many parents, these "no nits" policies are disappearing as school districts face state and federal pressure to reduce absenteeism and boost academic achievement. No Child requires that 95% of students be present for mandatory achievement tests. It also allows states to use attendance to help determine whether school districts are making adequate educational progress under the federal law. Those that don't do so face sanctions that could include state takeovers of their schools.
As The Quick and the Ed puts it, "...there's a certain not-grown-up quality to stories like this."