A new article in the Queens Gazette yesterday reported on the ongoing infestation in Queens, NYC public schools. This is an update to previous accounts of bed bugs in the NYC public schools (and not, I might add, just in Queens).
The current article states,
Efforts to combat bedbugs in seven District 30 schools have been under way over the last few months. “We’ve been having a big incidence of bedbugs,” said Jeannie Tsvaris-Basini, president of Community Education Council District 30 at the January council meeting, held at P.S. 222 in Jackson Heights.
Reporting on a meeting she had on January 5 with the pest management contractor handling the matter for the Department of Education, Tsvaris-Basini said there are still problems with bedbugs in the seven affected schools, P.S. 212 and P.S. 69 in Jackson Heights, P.S. 112, P.S. 111 and P.S. 166 in Long Island City, P.S. 152 in Woodside and P.S. 234 in Astoria. “Problems keep cropping up,” said Tsvaris-Basini. She said the contractor indicated the bedbugs may be growing immune to the chemical currently used to control them.
Bed bugs were first reported in NYC public school disctrict 30 on October 5, 2006 (which isn’t to say they were not there much longer).
Like most articles in the press, this one contained some inaccuracies:
District 30 Superintendent Dr. Philip Composto said several classrooms have been affected at P.S. 234. “[Bedbugs] are not like roaches. They affix themselves to people,” he said. But Composto said pest management efforts could only be conducted one classroom at a time.
Well, yes, Dr. Composto, they do affix themselves to people. But only for a few minutes while they dine on our blood. They certainly don’t travel into schools attached to children’s skin, the way lice or body lice or scabies might.
Instead, they “hitchhike” on our clothing, in bags, and in books.
And, though this article is not incorrect in saying that
Bedbugs are probably carried into classrooms in infested school bags or clothing and then can travel between classrooms in small crevices and through cracks in walls and floors.
… it should also be acknowledged that bed bugs can be carried into schools on the clothing and in the bags of school employees, contractors, and delivery people. Even, dare I say it, Principals who live in tonier neighborhoods and nice buildings.
And, even more importantly, they don’t just get carried into schools. They get carried out. So now every family member of every student, teacher, administrator, staff member, and visitor, may be taking these bed bugs home. If you see some bed bugs, you have lots, lots more hiding away unseen, biting you and others in classes and offices, and hitching a ride home in your bag or briefcase. Everyone involved in the school should be warned.
The article noted that
Any bug found is put in a bag and sent to the Department of Health (DOH) for confirmation of its species. “They determine if it is a bedbug,” said Composto. If there is a positive identification, letters are sent home informing parents. “Everything in the affected classroom has to be bagged, coats, bags, etc.,” he said.
This sounds promising, though it still is not clear if the NYCDOE policy is atill in place that schools need only contact the parents of the “affected” student, as was reported by the same paper in December. But bed bugs cannot be seen as “affecting” only the person they’re found on or near. This is ridiculous–these are not lice. If a bed bug is in a child’s desk, a teacher’s bag, or laying eggs in a library book, it affects the entire school and everyone in it, and everyone who lives with those people. Saying one child is “affected” because the bed bug was found on them, would be like saying only that child was “affected” by a roach that crawled up its leg. The school has bed bugs (as it would be the school that had roaches).
I really hope that schools are now notifying all employees and all families every time a bed bug is seen. And I hope they’re doing a lot more than that: the school administrators need to take this moment to educate parents on where to get resources on how to search for and identify bed bugs, and what to do if they’re found at home.
I fear that they actually believe these bed bugs are only going in the one direction, which is absurd.