The Ohio State Board of Education is set to vote on a new policy aimed at curbing violence in Ohio schools by introducing head lice to K-12 campuses statewide.
The vote comes on the heels of a similar decision by the Montpelier Board of Education, which approved a measure to release head lice onto K-12 students of the Williams County School District earlier this year.
School officials say the decision to voluntarily infest Ohio students is aimed at preventing incidents of violence among students relying on "a proven method with roots predating human history."
"Look, if you're like most people, just hearing the word 'lice' makes you want to scratch," said Harry Pickens, Public Relations Director for the Ohio Department of Education.
"But guess what?" he asked, inspecting my head carefully. "You get used to it! Head lice aren't harmful. They aren't dangerous. They don't spread disease, or cause injury. They're not even unsanitary! In fact, they are most happy when living, feeding and reproducing on a regularly cleaned human head.
"But more importantly," Pickens continued, smoothing my hair back into place, "the act of social grooming - picking lice out of each other's hair, for example - is a crucial activity among social creatures like primates and humans, and has been for tens of millions of years. It reinforces social structures and family links, and helps build relationships. Social grooming is even a basis for reconciliation and conflict resolution.
"Mark my words: That's just the sort of thing that's going to keep these kids from shooting each other someday," he said, scratching.
"Not to nit-pick, but when we wage a war on head lice and win, we actually lose, because a fundamental method of building human relationships dies along with them," concluded Pickens. "The only clear winners here are the shampoo companies."
While the Board of Education's plan gets under the skin of some Ohio residents, others find it less irritating than previous alternatives.
Ohio native Morgan Lingonberry of Defiance County had this to say:
"When I was a kid, the teacher stuffed a sock in my mouth, duct-taped my hands and feet together, and threw me in a plywood box down the hall when I misbehaved in class. But, who knows? Maybe if the girl that sat behind me in math class had been picking bugs out of my hair, it would have calmed me down a little bit. I probably wouldn't have gotten into nearly so much trouble."
The Ohio Association of School Nurses' position on the issue: "Studies have shown that head lice are not harmful to anything but our delicate sensibilities. There is clearly an unnecessary social stigma surrounding these hapless blood-sucking vermin. If having lice didn't result in social judgment, we probably wouldn't even care about them at all.
"On the other hand, studies have also shown that mutual grooming is a precursor to coitus and pair bonding, so the Ohio school board will probably need to balance their efforts by handing out lots of condoms to lice-infested teens."