The UFT (NYC teachers’ union): how do we get the city to be proactive about bed bugs?

by nobugsonme on February 5, 2007 · 7 comments

in bed bugs, bed bugs in schools, government, new york, reader questions, usa

by Nobugsonme

Ellie posted a question on one of the FAQs, which will probably get more feedback here.

Ellie Engler, Feb 5th 2007 at 8:53 am

The United Federation of Teachers represents more than 100,000 staff working in more than 1400 buildings where there are more than 1.2 million students in school We have received many reports of bedbugs and follow the NYC Health Department Protocol, the bedbug is bagged (not easy to find them), sent to the health department for confirmation and then the Board of Education will address the problem.

This process takes time and our staff and parents are very upset. We believe that the Board of Education believes that this is not a school problem because the bugs come from home.

Any advice?

Ellie, you should definitely read this post I wrote, about bed bugs in the NYC schools. Bed bugs are not like lice and do not necessarily “come from home,” because they can travel in any direction. Someone brought them in to the school, but in many cases, students and staff may be taking them from school and introducing them into homes for the first time. They don’t live on people, but in a place, and it is quite common to be bitten for a long time before you ever see one.

I think the union should take a stand on this. You could probably enlist the assistance of NYC-based entomologists and perhaps some of the really good Pest Control Operators who would back you up on what a ridiculous policy it is to assume you will see bed bugs, and to assume the families are to blame. Political action may be necessary. Let us know if we can help with that effort.

The city needs to understand that bed bugs can come from home to school with anyone who enters the building (rich or poor, teacher, student, admin, visitor, or staff), or even in “stuff”. And they can go from school to home with all the same types of people.

Of course, the schools will take things seriously when some students’ families, staff, and teachers get bed bugs from school and start to sue. Few have this within their means, I know, but a class action is always a possibility. The BoE should deal with this more proactively and avoid such a situation.

Of course, the city is pretending the problem does not really exist anywhere. As I’ve said many times, they keep producing this number of 4600-some complaints between summer 2005 and summer 2006, of which 1/3 were legit bed bug cases. The owner of Pest Away, meanwhile, told the Village Voice he got 85 legitimate bed bug calls from customers per day (and 15 false alarms).

Mayor Bloomberg, are you listening?
That 85 x 5 days a week x 52 weeks a year = 22,100. Perhaps my math teachers did a better job than those of the city’s officials, or perhaps they’d like to ignore the fact that one PCO is getting 22,100 calls in a year. There are hundreds of PCOs serving the 5-borough area. The city is in the midst of a genuine epidemic, and the bugs are excellent hitchhikers. Nevertheless, they are also excellent at infesting a place.

Anyone who claims they are not can explain why so many Bedbuggers have sofas that are infested. Why we have infested mattresses when we never took in a used one, and why our cars get infested if we’re not careful. Friends and relatives have become infested after we visit them for one night. Bed bugs spread easily.

It stands to reason that the schools will get bed bugs from some people and give them to many others, in the space of time it takes for a teacher to spot one, catch it, and bag it for identification.

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1 nobugsonme February 5, 2007 at 10:19 pm

Some early responses (moved here):

Bugalina // Feb 5th 2007 at 9:05 am

The Board of Education is in denial..because the bed bug situation is not easily solved with a

2 Bugalina February 6, 2007 at 10:35 am

Ms. Engler, I don’t know if you were looking for any practical advice on what you could do personally. You could start to put your handbag into a large ziplock, the new ones have double zippers, you should advoid hanging your coat with others, you could also put it into a large ziplock. You could keep a spray bottle of Kleen Free in your car, and spray down your shoes upon entering your car, this is a contact enzyme killer…imho , preventative measures are a good thing to do, esp. in environments where the finding of bed bugs is documented. But be prepared for setting off alarms….remember, bed bugs can be transported on the personal belongings of employees and students…obviously if a student is showing up with bites on the exposed parts of their skin ie faces, and arms, there should be protocols to follow. Bottom line is that the schools are going to have to deal with this issue soon…they cannot go on pretending that it will not negatively effect the entire school environment. Bugalina

3 michelle March 15, 2007 at 8:13 pm

My school nurse calls them “insect bites” and “let’s leave it at that” My principal is trying to tell me they might be flea bites. Yea right! I’ve had two kids in my class tell me they have had to throw out their mattresses and have had to get their homes treated. Yet, the rest of the parents in the class are told NOTHING. They should be outraged their kids are sitting in a room where at least two kids have infested homes. But, because one can’t be “bagged” in school – THEY DON’T EXIST, RIGHT – isn’t that what we’re being brainwashed into believing?

4 nobugsonme March 16, 2007 at 1:46 am

Michelle,
This is a serious problem. Parents’ associations and teachers need to organize, or schools are just going to be a conduit for spreading more and more infestations.
Let us know if we can help you.

5 hopelessnomo' March 16, 2007 at 9:42 am

Schools should be spreading information to parents on what to do, what to look for, they are perfect for that role. Why are they covering this up instead?

6 lucy March 1, 2009 at 12:47 am

I am sick and tried of these bed bugs. The a kid in school who is infested with them and we found 13 bed bugs on him this is too much. No one care about the teachers and what about the other childrend. Please help the schools in Queens. What happens when we have a trip. we have to sit on the bus do you think I would sit next to him they are nesting in his feather coat.

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