Remember the bill which would require New York State school districts to notify all parents of children in the school if a bed bug is found there?
New York Assembly Member Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria, Queens) has been expressing concern about this issue since late 2006, when reports of bed bugs in NYC public schools were just beginning to be made public, and Gianaris first proposed a parental notification bill in the Assembly back in 2007.
Well, this spring, Gianaris’s little-bill-that-could finally made it through the Assembly and the Senate, as A5434 (S4472).
It has now been passed and is awaiting Governor David Paterson’s signature.
This is good news!
This law will apply to all school districts in New York State with a million or more students. (I hope in future that it is extended to all schools.) It will take effect on the July 1st after it is signed into law; in other words, it will not likely become effective until 7/1/2011.
The previous policy — still in effect — is that parents of an “affected” child would be automatically notified of bed bugs in the school. (I wrote about the problems with that approach back in 2007.) It is not clear who the “affected” students were, but as I understand it, students might be considered “affected” if bed bugs were actually on them, or on their bags.
Not only does the bill require principals to notify all of the childrens’ parents immediately when a bed bug is found in school; the notification sent
… shall also include information regarding proper procedures to prevent further infestations at the school and to prevent the transfer of bedbugs from the school to the residences of students. Such information may be developed by the board of education in consultation with other city agencies and shall be available in various languages as deemed necessary.
This is very important. Parents whose children attend a school where a bed bug was found should not panic, but do need information on how to help children avoid bringing bed bugs into the home (or taking them to school).
We can only hope that parents also also pointed to information on bed bug detection and treatment. The last thing anyone wants is for a principal to send a “bed bug letter” and for parents to start deploying treatments which are ineffective or which can make problems worse (like bug bombs).
The law will also require the infestation to be “properly addressed in the most effective and safe manner.”
Bed bugs are now becoming a problem in schools everywhere. Schools need to deal with bed bugs appropriately and to warn parents of their presence — and educate parents about how to detect and, if necessary, deal with bed bugs in their homes.
Bed bug legislation is rarely a perfect solution to the bed bug problem, but a bill like this can do a lot to help.
My only regret is that the Senate resisted this bill for so long.
Consider this: there were 34 cases of bed bugs at 24 schools in October and November 2006. In January and February 2007, there were 72 cases at 43 schools, according to the NYC Department of Education as cited in this NY Post article from April 2007. In other words, the number of cases had more than doubled in four months. How many bed bugs have been spotted in NYC schools since February 2007?!?
Many New York City families would surely have been alerted about their childrens’ potential exposure to bed bugs in the past three years if this legislation had gone through more swiftly.
Congratulations to Michael Gianaris and the co-sponsors who have fought so valiantly for this legislation, for so long.
The bed bug school disclosure bill has now been signed into law. More from the Daily News.