NYC Bedbuggers: time to have some local politicians over for a bite or two

by nobugsonme on April 2, 2007 · 10 comments

in bed bug epidemic, bed bugs, bed bugs in schools, government, misinformation, new york, signs and symptoms of bed bugs, spread of bed bugs, usa

We’re now officially told that:

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.

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1 Bugalina April 2, 2007 at 3:32 pm

It’s so hard to accept this “dark ages” mentality. By not “exposing” the problem, they – the school board – are complicit in spreading these bugs. Eventually, they are going to have to deal with it because the bugs are going to be crawliing up the legs of sitting teachers and students alike. And what about the schoolbuses ?? The nurses office offers a prime harborage spot. When people put their head in the sand, hoping to block their vision, this doesn’t make the problem go away. Deal with the BUGS..NOW or pay the price later !

2 jessinchicago April 2, 2007 at 9:05 pm

Nobugs, what an awesome post. I really hope it draws some much-needed attention to this atrocity. My heart goes out to those little children who are undoubtedly singled out (even if the “problem” is handled in the most delicate way possible, it inevitably has an impact on the “carrier” kids socially and emotionally). I can’t believe I just wrote “carrier” kids! How ludicrous!!!

I know that with summer on the horizon and warm weather just around the corner, NYC officials are going to get a huge dose of reality. Fast. Come fall, this will no longer only be a matter of bedbugger outrage. I’ll put money on that.

Jess

3 WantMySkinBack April 3, 2007 at 9:24 am

One thing I can say in favor for the teachers at public schools: is that they are part of a union. So they can and WILL fight if need be. THe children on the other hand, and possibly the food staff and others who work at the schools are at risk without real protection from a union. I don’t understand why the PTA isn’t sending a letter out on their own, without the DOE? Don’t you just wonder why these parents are also turning their heads? Or do you think otherwise? It’s perplexing… Curious to your thoughts.

4 parakeets April 3, 2007 at 9:39 am

I agree the class issue is a big part of the overall problem. In the Boston area people felt the bedbug problem was limited to the poorer towns, immigrant populations, students, etc. So when the bedbug problem happens in a wealthy suburb, or a supposedly clean and safe grammar school, people keep “mum.” Schools don’t want to publicize their problems. Bedbugs are an assault against our students (and their families) but the problem is being ingnored until it is too late.

5 Bugalina April 3, 2007 at 10:12 am

Its really a social phenomenon…this “silence” that surrounds the bed bug infestation epidemic.
People in the social sciences have good fodder here for study. It would be so much healthier if our government would start to put out public health information and legislate some laws. Its like the government knows that those with money will do whatever they have to, to get rid of the monsters, and those without will have to suffer. But this is so short-sighted, and we all know the reasons why, ( they can return !) The denial, the secrecy,..Do they actually think that denying it will make it go away ! Officials can turn their heads,and choose to look away, but they will find out soon enough that the bugs don’t care from which side they suck blood …if one side is turned away, the bugs will spread to the other…

6 nobugsonme April 3, 2007 at 12:05 pm

Hi all,

I just added a paragraph updating the story (at the bottom) to include links to the other times we’ve discussed this issue in December, January, and February. One of the previous articles (perhaps the Daily News one) stated that schools in at least one district were now notifying parents in general, because the PTA had forced them to (I’m paraphrasing because I can’t find the source article.) That’s progress, but more needs to be made.

Parents and teachers are fighting this, especially teachers (who are the ones most fully aware of the idiotic policy), but I am sure the general ignorance about bed bugs is a big part of the problem. People don’t get that bed bugs are not like lice, so they are listening to what they’re told (that bed bugs belong to the person they’re found on). Education is the problem (ironically!) and we absolutely need public education campaigns on every bus shelter, in the newspapers, and on every TV, educating people about how easily bed bugs spread, how rooms and buildings, (not beds, not people), are infested. And about how to avoid them–especially not picking up or buying secondhand furniture, and also not trying to move away from your untreated bed bug problem. And much, much more, obviously.

7 willow-the-wisp April 4, 2007 at 7:16 pm

Apparently this sort of half witted hype has been put out in the sf ghettos more recently for tenants. Iwas APPAULED at the Laudromat today:

There were like 4-5 times as many folks out doing tons of laundry. out of the say, usual 5, there were aboout 20 folks. But only one person other than myself was doing their laundry the proper BB way: (if there is a written protocol–I’m not aware of it and I felt like, if anyone who was NOT TOO SELF ABSORBED AND had noticed me, they hopefully were learning something rather than judging me as a victim of some sort of a clean-freak OCD disorder.)

Now I suspect Boston and NYC and Toronto not to mention England and Vancouver Austrailia and New Zealand have already seen these types of “incorrect methods” of just trying to launder your bb troubles away once or twice–and that’s that.”

But forget about how they were doing it–the WRONG WAY–this is how I do it:

I’m not perfect, but I know I do a pretty good job there in the laundromat.

1–I don’t use anything other than sturdy plastic bags to bring laudry to and from the laundromat anymore. The final, heavy double bag I bring home–is how I keep it stored when I finally get there, and that is only until I can sort of sort it all out and re-bag it, in my few, designated “likely to be clean and feree of bb areas.”

But That’s another story.

2–Once I’m at the washshop–I dump directly from plastic bag into the machine and I only use the HOTTEST cycle. When wash is completed–I enter it into a FRESH bag from the washing machine. From there they are sealed until the best drier is eventually available.

3–When the clothes are so hot and so dry, that I can harly touch them without feeling I’m about to get a first degree burn–well … that is when I know they are “BB Done.”
Sometimes this takes 8 quaters–sometimes it takes 18.

4–I don’t touch other’s laundry and I wished today nobody had touched mine.

5–I do not bring my bed frames (as strange as this sounds) into the laundrymatt with me. Can u beleive it? 2 people did this. (they were washing in a frenzy and bagging into canvas bags.
BB LOVE CANVAS BAGS AND I HATE BB’S! They can pass thru or hide in a canvas bag better than any other bag I’m aware of.

(I only fudged a little wiht my technique, and so the one sock that fell onto the floor got SHOOK OUT WELL and immediatly stuck into a really hot drier. it was one that still had a good 20 minutes left to go. Had I been practicing my techique more fully
I’d have double bagged the sock and put it in with the stuff I need to wash in a few days from now.

Back to minimalistic “less is more” living.
Because I was so tweaked by what went on at the laudromat today–I tossed all of the tightly sealed, double bagged items I’d washed and dried into my Bathtub. I’m not even going to open them up or move them to designated clean areas in my hotel room–until I steam the bags well … sometime later on.
But they always remain in plastic bags as much as is feasible.
One of my “clean zones” (GOD I HOPE) is in between my two futon matresses. Its lumpy to sleep that way but comforting as well.
Also–I don’t fold most of my clothing anymore. Even once it’s home. It’s a waste of time. Thank god for P. Press.
I’m more tempted to use my iron on the rug at this point and that may not be a bad idea–so long as I don’t burn the rug–I’ll be fine.

I posted this here, because lot’s of moms and dad’s will hopefully be reading this thread: To you I say: store and then do your laundry at home, if your lucky enough to have a washer and dryer there, in some similar manner as I have outlined above. Especially–have the kids change clothing directly after school–especially if there is a BB problem in your area–but have them do it in a place where you can either wash the kids down and then spray the area with some of the more popular fabric type bb control measures without making a total mess.
P.S. Make it fun for the kids! Like a summer squirt with the hose on a hot day kind of a thing. I know it’s more work but this might be one of the best ways to keep the bb’s from overtaking your whole apartment/house–should you unfortunately wind up getting them.
Am I on overkill–No. BB’s are parasites and they live soley on blood, perferrably human.
You see–BB’s are so small and remain so for the first few weeks of life they are really more like little specks of either clear or brownish dirt or dust. All “Little brown dots” are suspect to being a BB–these days–no matter where you live!
The little bb-bugger’s love to attach themselves to clothes, so love your kids and wash their clothing better than you might normally have in the past.

8 nobugsonme April 4, 2007 at 7:30 pm

Willow.
I am going to respond in the forums. I want to try and keep the posts (like this) and FAQS on topic.

9 BronxBugged April 27, 2010 at 4:33 pm

wow, great exchange here, my friends. and very uplifting, actually. this is the stuff of change, change indeed takes time, and we must abandon all hope of fruition but aspire for awareness (buddhism, our best friend during these times). paradoxical but sensible, just like the miserable critters themselves. pestilence is part of humanity, and the fact that it’s still being tacked on to class and race and such–really upsetting, but not in ANY way surprising (how American of us!). lice used to be the public school stigma, now bb’s. what’s it gonna take to drill into people’s heads??? these bugs dont discriminate, therefore they are a huge message that we need to work TOGETHER. IF NOTHING MORE, let us shout that from the (bb free) hilltops! amen. this is insanity, that this is happening. we are living thru some serious history here, my fellow humans. what a sick ride.

10 nobugsonme April 27, 2010 at 10:44 pm

BronxBugged,

The post above was written in 2007. Since then, some aspects of the bed bug situation are no better, others are worse (there are more of them, for example). But positive developments are also occurring.

A number of us were involved with starting or participating in a now inactive group called New York vs. Bed Bugs, which (in 2008-2009) played a big role in convincing the City Council to create a Bed Bug Advisory Board — which should soon be releasing its report on what should be done about bed bugs in NYC. I am looking forward to the report, and optimistic that some positive changes will come out of it.

I guess what I am saying is, there can and will be progress. And yes, it is worth trying to work for change.

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