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”?