Reports of the nasty critters skyrocketed from 34 cases at 24 public schools in October and November to 72 cases at 43 schools in January and February, according to the Department of Education.
And despite the surge in the creepy-crawlers, the school system continues to resist calls to inform all parents in schools where insects are found.
There’s nothing else that’s really substantial in this NY Post article reminding us that bed bugs are spreading in NYC public schools. So far, the New York City Board of Education’s official policy on bed bugs is that only the parents of the child found with bed bugs on his or her person are notified. And it’s absurd.
All you Bedbuggers out there should invite some local politicians (preferably school board officials) into your homes, and have them sit on your infested sofas, and offer them a nice beverage and some hummus and a mini pita bread or two. Maybe crank up some music or put on that new Tudors show if you get Showtime (Tudors! I bet Henry VIII spread mad bed bugs.)
Now, after a while, a bed bug may crawl onto your local elected official; when it does, you can point and say “You! You brought bed bugs into my home!” You can then trap and bag it, and say, “I am going to call the newspapers and report that you, local politician so-and-so, infested my home with bed bugs!”
You may find this to be a silly analogy, but it’s exactly how children in our schools are treated when bed bugs are found to be crawling on them.
Assuming the bed bugs found on a child came into school on the child or in his or her stuff, is ridiculous. It’s as ridiculous as assuming your local politician brought them in, when we all know you’ve had them for months.
Someone in an infested school can have bed bugs on them because they’re in an infested school. The children may be the ones the bed bugs rode in on, or not, and so could the Principal (even if s/he lives in a nice Manhattan co-op, many of which are crawling), teachers, staff, and visitors.
I need to qualify the above suggestion: Bedbuggers, please do not invite Queens Assemblyman Michael Gianaris over for hummus on your infested sofa. Michael Gianaris is, according to this and other news reports, the lone voice in favor of notifying all parents–not just the parents of the child who is wrongly thought to be “infested.” (This is an error in thinking; bed bugs are not lice, they don’t live on people.)
The local news media needs to stop printing things like this:
Currently, only the parents of an affected child [my emphasis] are automatically notified. The city’s Office of School Health decides on a case-by-case basis if other letters need to be sent out.
This implies that a child is “affected” as opposed to all children and other humans in the vicinity. That sounds a lot like implying the child is infested, and not the school. The reason everyone should be notified is not only because everyone is exposed to the bed bugs, as these articles imply, but because anyone at all could have brought them in, regardless of who bed bugs are found on. Seriously.
And they’re still saying things like this:
The blood-sucking insects get into schools on student clothing, bookbags or other items.
No, bed bugs come into schools on people, not students, and leave that way too. Since the New York City Board of Education policy on bed bugs is that the school doesn’t have an infestation unless a bug is caught, bagged, and sent in by the teacher, you can bet that many, many more than 43 schools are now infested. You can also bet that bed bugs may be creeping around in offices, on administrators’ purses and briefcases, on teachers’ backs.
But as long as being caught with a bed bug on you or your stuff marks you as the “source” of the school’s problem, there’s no incentive to find out if there are really bed bugs in the school. It’s a game of musical bed bugs: the bed bugs move from person to person and if the music stops, and you’re the one caught with a bed bug on you, you lose.
There’s something racist and classist going on here, where public school children are assumed to be the (only possible) bringers of filth into the school. Sadly, the truth is they’re taking it home to their uninfested homes. And so are teachers, administrators, lunch staff, and everyone else.
Update (4/3): here’s the backstory on this issue, which we’ve been talking about since December: in December, and again in January, the Queens Gazette reported the story, especially in relation to that bedbugged borough, and Queens Assemblyman Gianairis’s attempts to change this ridiculous Board of Ed. policy, then February, a UFT official commented on our blog, asking how teachers could get schools to change their policy, and in mid-February, the Daily News covered the issue.