More on the New York City schools and bed bugs

by nobugsonme on February 15, 2007 · 12 comments

in activism, bed bugs, bed bugs in schools, government, new york, queens, usa

The New York Daily News had an update today on Bedbugs in Astoria, NYC schools and NYC schools in general.

I guess the NYCDoE doesn’t read Bedbugger. Because we keep telling them that if you see bed bugs on a person or their stuff, it does not mean the bedbugs rode in off the street (at that exact moment) on the person or their stuff. Bed bugs crawl onto and off of people. They want food– but they don’t want to hang out and live on a kid. They are not like lice and do not infest people, or crawl on them and ride around all day.

That’s why the sighting of a bed bug on a student or visitor or on their stuff is a good sign the school is infested. People with good-sized bed bug infestations at home can go months and months and months being bitten by bed bugs without seeing one single live bug. If 43 schools citywide have seen 95 live bed bugs inside the schools, there’s a good chance many or most of those schools are infested.

But NYCDoE officials do not read this blog. I know this because they keep saying things like this:

Schools officials emphasized that all of the incidents had been limited to one or two bugs brought in on kids or visitors or their clothing. “We’re not talking about an infestation,” said spokeswoman Margie Feinberg.

The bugs were known to have been brought in on kids or visitors?

Really, Margie Feinberg? Do you have small tracking devices on the bed bugs so that you can trace that they came from particular people or their bags?

Or is it simply easier to blame as the source the unfortunate person a bed bug is found on or near, rather than considering that your schools may be harboring infestations and causing more homes to be infested as teachers, other students, staff, and visitors unwittingly take bed bugs home.

Bed bugs do hitchhike, but there’s no logical reason to assume they would come from homes, but not also go to other homes. And when some of the city’s nicest buildings are infested, there’s also no reason to assume the source of bed bugs is a public school student or visitor. It could be one of the more highly paid principals, or even (gasp!) really well paid Board of Education officials who drop by.

I know everyone is all hung up on this “bed” thing: “our school does not have bed bugs because there are no beds.” My landlord told me I did not have bed bugs because my mattress looked clean. They can live in buildings just fine, especially in wood, baseboards, floors, and the like. They will feed in the daytime, biting people who are awake, especially if they live somewhere where people leave at night, like a school.

Middle and elementary schools in Astoria’s district 30 alone have had 11 bed bug cases. I was pleased to see that the lobbying by parents’ groups led to District 30 sending a flyer home with students for parents, to alert people about how to identify and get rid of bed bugs. But assuming the problem is at home is not clever. Once bugs are brought into school, the school needs treatment–and treatment means repeated treatments.

According to Ellie Engler of the United Federation of Teachers, in a comment left on this blog recently, the NYC Department of Health protocol requires teachers to catch and bag a bed bug, send it in to be identified by the DoH, and only then does the Board of Ed. address the problem.

Most of these schools caught one or two bed bugs. To put that in perspective, many bed bug sufferers who write to our blog will see one or two bugs in their home. They may catch one or none, as a sample. And they have a serious bed bug problem that may require four or more treatments.

Let’s consider what happens in a school: once or twice a teacher pulls a bed bug off a kid. How many more times do kids see bugs or (more likely) have bugs on them that they do not notice? Bed bugs are good at not being seen. They sneak up and you do not feel their bite. There are likely to be many bed bugs for every one caught in the act of walking in plain sight.

It isn’t clear how the schools are addressing the problem, once found. According to the article,

[Bed bugs] are also mobile and hard to exterminate, as frustrated staff members at Public School 234 in Astoria have found. The school has reported several bedbug incidents since last year; the Department of Education sent a team to spray a classroom last weekend after the most recent sighting.

I hope they know they need to follow up in two weeks with another spraying.

And schools still aren’t being proactive about educating parents:

State Assemblyman Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) has called on the DOE to institute a policy of notifying all parents at schools where bedbugs are spotted. Currently, that decision is made on a case-by-case basis.

Presumably this depends on how educated those overseeing each case are about bed bugs. We need to work on that: how about “No public school officials left behind”?

1 Bugalina February 15, 2007 at 9:13 am

Its all about denial…a pass the buck mentality. If they knew the nature of bed bugs they would realize how wrong they are. Children, sitting for long periods of time, employees sitting for long periods of time, are perfect candidates for a bed bug meal…then after eatting ( which they only do once a week on average ) the bugs go find a nice crack or crevice to harbor in…Oh, and what about all those papers stacked up..does anyone remember their kids classrooms !! all that electronic equipment and all those pocketbooks and briefcases, So many harborages, and lots of blood. Take your time Ms. Feinberg because you will be talking about an infestation..just wait until the weather warms up…

2 parakeets February 15, 2007 at 3:51 pm

Did you notice the price they quoted for extermination ($250-$475) didn’t say if it was “per room” and/or “per visit”? All adjacent rooms should be treated (including those rooms in a nearby apartment, if applicable), and the treatment usually has to be done for 3 times, sometimes more. Is anyone in the schools also looking at the bites the kids have? A bedbug doesn’t have to be crawling on a student for him to be covered with bedbug bites. A woman on Boston tv had bedbug bites on her face, they were so bad in her housing complex, and was still being told “they didn’t have a bedbug infestation.” Schools, of all segements of our society, should be commited to the welfare of our children! This is our children we are talking about, not just the school building and grounds. This is not a facilities problem, this is a child abuse problem. I have had bedbugs and I would never want to see any child suffer from them, ever. Protect our children.

I am sick and tired of one more news story that begins referring to the nursery rhyme and ends with bedbug “facts” that are a spin on “Don’t panic.” I want stories to start screaming: “This is a scourge. Just wait until you get them in YOUR house. They are extremely difficult to treat. They can cost you a lot of time and money to treat, and treatment isn’t guaranteed. Bedbugs spread very easily. There are no new bedbug treatments forseen on the horizon. You will not be able to sleep because you know they will bite you and your children. You can throw out many of your possessions but still have bedbugs. You will go through some tough times where you might even doubt your sanity. Buying new furniture won’t help. Moving to a different apartment won’t help. ‘Spraying’ won’t help. You who are about to be infested by bedbugs, we salute you!”

3 buggedinbrooklyn February 16, 2007 at 10:12 am

…and the beginings of the invasion begin.

(oh, hello all. yes, I’m back.
my brief vacation from this site was from my last tramatic event from them nasty bedbugs…I’ll send Jess an email as to that story.
I’ll also briefly post someplace here what I may have to do to regain some sanity.)

again, like I’ve said in the past, the more they want to down play the problem the more the city is alowing the invading bugs to spread.
….and spread they will to each and all homes and schools, and fire houses, police stations, doctor’s offices, hospitals, drug stores, shoe stores, luggage stores, food markets, train stations, taxis, restaurants, NYC HOTELS, public toilets, CITY HALL, office buildings, APT buildings, and lets not forget, YOUR HOME too…even if you already killed off your bedbug infestation, you’ll get them again from your neighbor or co-worker, or the guy next to you on the train to work.
yes, we will get them again, and again, and again, untill the city officials start to get involved with a “real” plan to help get rid of them for good.
(and let’s not forget that bedbugs are already biting at a movie theater near you)

the scorge is comming to everyone’s household soon. it’s just a matter of time.
no one is safe, and the more the public is misinformed from newspapers and city officials , the faster you’ll get them in your house…and get them again, for those who already got rid of thier first invasion.

start saving money now as the price of treatments will only go up by the time you get your next invasion. oh, and you will get invaded again people…you can’t stop them from comming into your home. you know you can’t.

I know I’m mad. I know I’m pissed off. I also know that crap like this just gets me too upset to even speak.

but I can’t help but feeling that I need to scream from the highest building in NYC so all can hear me….THE BUGS ARE COMMING!!!! THE BUGS ARE COMMING!!!!

woops, sorry, they are already here.


4 JLGK February 16, 2007 at 2:46 pm

Keep in mind that NYC has a law (Local Law 37) phasing out the use of certain pesticides on city owned and operated properties. The City Council voted to phase out all “Danger” label (Toxicity Category I), all known, likely, and possible carcinogens, and all developmental toxins, especially in schools. This leaves the BOE with few choices. Can’t use DE because of asthma rates. And they can’t just spray the schools with pesticides, because 1. they have never confirmed an active (reproducing) bed bug infestation and 2. you just can’t endanger kids’ health like that. Go ahead and do it at home if you choose, but many people see the pesticide as the bigger risk and do not want their children involuntarily exposed. NYC BOE has worked for a long time to reduce pesticide risks in their schools. The city is trying to figure out what to do about bed bugs and how to approach it. Right now there are many legal and ethical issues. Once summer arrives, I think the problem will explode and hopefully there will be protocols in place to help deal with bed bugs in schools. The rest of the country (world?) is waiting to see what NYC will do.

5 nobugsonme February 16, 2007 at 2:59 pm

JLGK, I appreciate that NYCBoE has to worry about the health effects of pesticides and dusts, and I hope some good entomologists and PCOs are being consulted. I also hope they can legalize safer treatments like Thermapure if this is practical for larger buildings (may not be) is currently illegal in NYC. Perhaps other options can be worked out.

However, what you say does not excuse the fact that the city schools are NOT actively educating parents about the presence of bed bugs in the schools in general. District 30, as the article states, did so ONLY because parents at those schools lobbied for this.

I am with Councilmember Michael Gianaris who is trying to get all schools where bed bugs have been sighted to warn all parents, not just the family of the child the bug was found “on” (as is the rule, unless individual schools choose to do more). You’re right that it may not be a full infesatation in each school, but come on, all 95 bed bugs found in city schools did not just happen to ride in on someone that morning. Even if the kids are bringing them in, chances are they’re bringing more in, and not just the one that was found on someone one day. Some of the bugs have got to have set up shop in the schools.

And I do recall early last spring, before the bed bug hype was at the state it is now in the media, a network news segment on schools where parents were finding what they believed to be bed bug bites on their kids. Kids should be inspected for bites by their parents, even if their teacher has not caught a bed bug on them. There’s no reason to panic, but all parents should be alerted to be aware and look out for this.

6 Bugalina February 16, 2007 at 4:26 pm

When I grew up on the South Side of Chicago, in the 1950’s I must have been exposed to all kinds of things that people now think will bring them certain, and immediate death. Our foolishness as an overly paranoid society is going to result in massive bed bug infestations. I grew up eatting pesticide sprayed veggies, and going to schools whose boiler rooms were covered with abestos, and I am certain the walls were painted with lead based paint. I just can’t imagine how bed bug infestations in public schools are going to be remedied. I feel sorry for all concerned.

7 wantmyskinback February 17, 2007 at 12:16 pm

regarding the estimate for extermination, when i was seeking a pco initially, i found people in queens and long island who would have done my entire apartment for $275 and would have used similar products as pestaway. so i am not surprised at these quotes. i wouldn’t focus on the amounts quoted, but on the fact that the schools are now paying attention, finally! to some extent.

8 nobugsonme February 17, 2007 at 8:19 pm

Just to piggyback on WMSK’s comment: ome people charge per visit, some for a warrantied period (say 2 months), and some per hour (!)

9 carmela February 28, 2009 at 11:28 pm

I am sick of these bed bugs I work in Ps76 and one of mystaff workers have found bedbugs on the child 13 of them. The Department of education is not letting the parent know about this. Every one at Ps. 76 in queens should know I don’t understand this . Please help our school. The child that has it they kept telling us that they are doing what they can. We found 3 this week on his coat. I m so sick the kid comes off the bus and eats breakfast with his coat on and someone that is passing by him can get a bug Why is their know law about this. If my child had it I would keep him home and wait till I really clean and get help some people just don’t care and the Department of Education doesn’t care . Everyday I get up and worry about what if I bring this home. They are not educating the teachers and the parents

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