Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity

Posted at 7:00 AM ET, 02/11/2011

Bedbugs at school: The new lice but worse

By Valerie Strauss

Public schools are facing something of a plague, and, for once, I do not mean standardized tests. Rather, bedbugs.

Schools in a number of states have closed off classrooms -- or the entire building -- because of bedbugs this school year, and Michigan government officials issued a document telling schools how to handle any infestations, complete with a template of a parent notification letter (“Dear Parent or Guardian: We recently found a bed bug in your child’s classroom....”).

In New York City, the number of confirmed bedbug cases in the first five months of the school is on pace to triple last year’s total. City schools have so far reported 1,7000 cases this academic year, the city’s Department of Education reported.

Schools are accustomed to dealing with seasonal outbreaks of head lice; kids unfortunate to get a case go home and get rid of them with special shampoo and often time-consuming hair combing. (Bedsheets and other things in the house also have to be washed.)

Bedbugs are harder to eliminate; researchers say they are becoming resistant to pesticides (as are lice).

Infestations are relatively new (even if bedbugs themselves are prehistoric) and growing in the United States. The U.S. government just convened its second two-day National Bed Bug Summit in Washington D.C., where panels to discussed how to control these pests on a community-wide basis. Federal officials are working on a national strategy for bed bug control.

How do bedbugs get to school? By hopping onto kids' backpacks and clothes. And they don't just hide in beds, so they are hard to locate.

According to the Mayo Clinic, bedbugs are reddish brown, oval and flat, about the size of an apple seed. During the day, they hide in the cracks and crevices of beds, box springs, headboards and bed frames but come out at night to feed -- on human blood; people wake up in the morning with evidence of bites on their face, neck, arms and hands. They can be extremely difficult to eradicate.

Bedbug bites often appear as small red bumps with a smaller red dot in the middle, usually arranged in a line or cluster, and often quite itchy. In most cases, bedbug bites do not cause any major medical concerns, unless a person has an allergic reaction to them.

While bedbugs feast at night and not while kids are learning math and history during the day, the concern of health officials is that they will find their way into more homes, creating new infestations.

As if schools don't have enough problems.


Follow my blog every day by bookmarking And for admissions advice, college news and links to campus papers, please check out our Higher Education page at Bookmark it!

By Valerie Strauss  | February 11, 2011; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Health  | Tags:  bedbug eradication, bedbug summit, bedbugs, bedbugs in school, how to get rid of bedbugs, lice  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Why our metrics for quality are not objective
Next: Texas district schools chief issues plea in Alamo-like letter


Very good information, but it plays a bit into the industry- and media-fueled frenzy on this topic. Bed bugs have, indeed, become resurgent. Interestingly, most sightings of presumed bed bugs, whether in schools, homes or in hotels, are NOT bed bugs. They are often other kinds of insects or merely bits of debris. It is critical, therefore, to obtain an expert evaluation of any specimen or digital image before concluding that there is a problem or taking action. Furthermore, if a bed bug is discovered in a school, this should stimulate further monitoring, but not necessarily treatment. Abatement efforts should not occur unless multiple bed bugs are found associated in time and place. Finally, assign to bed bugs a level of significance that is warranted. Bed bugs are an annoyance. They are not, however, known to transmit any infections. Hence, their significance pales in comparison to mosquitoes and ticks. School administrators across the country might reevaluate their policies. I've helped NYC and other schools develop monitoring and response strategies that are based more on science than emotion. Because there's no way to prevent bed bugs from occasionally entering the schools within the possessions of students & staff, efforts to block their entry will fail. Similarly, many efforts to manage the bugs may seem intuitive, but they may provide very little benefit. It is more difficult (but possible) to devise strategies that keep the schools open and reduce risks of pests as well as unwise pesticide applications.
-Richard Pollack
IdentifyUS LLC

Posted by: RichardPollack | February 11, 2011 8:56 AM | Report abuse

I guess Valerie was right about concerning the discovery of test scores that proved that claims on the resume of Ms. Rhee were false and incorrect.
Valerie probably knew that the Washington Post was really not going to report on this but simply do a white wash.

Well the white wash is in with the "reporting" of the Washington Post.

The Washington Post article "Rhee faces renewed scrutiny over depiction of students' progress when she taught" is not reporting but a white wash.

No mention that the claims of Ms. Rhee on her resume were challenged during the hiring process in 2007 as indicated by the Washington Post article of 2007 "Council to Challenge Rhee's Résumé".

No mention that the public hearing in 2007 specifically questioned the validity of claims in the resume of Ms. Rhee that are now shown to be incorrect.

From the hearing in 2007:
"This is somewhat of an unconventional appointment," Gray said. "She's basing a lot of her fitness on her experience in the classroom and her recruitment of teachers. . . . If you say something, you should be able to back it up."

No mention in the article of how important to Ms. Rhee were the claims in the resume in 2007 which Ms. Rhee now says were incorrect and should be revised without the claims that were questioned in 2007.

The reality is that the claims made by Ms. Rhee on her resume were incorrect as indicated by the newly discovered test scores.

Ms. Rhee would never have obtained her position in 2007 if in 2007 at the public hearing she would have admitted as she does now that the claims made in her resume were incorrect.

But the Washington Post is only interested in a white wash.

The whitewash on Ms. Rhee tells us the "On Wednesday evening, Rhee said" without giving details on who Ms. Rhee spoke to or any details of this conversation.

Apparently to the Washington Post reporting is simply selecting bits and pieces of a conversation and not providing readers with information on who was spoken to or the context of a conversation.

The Washington Post provides no information in regard to questions that Ms. Rhee was responding to, or even who was responding to.

Even on the worse interview show on TV the audience is aware of the questions and who is carrying on a conversation.

Never mind what was said, or even to who she spoke to, simply pick bits and pieces that you want for the white wash.

Imagine if the Washington Post had news articles where readers were simply told what political leaders said without any information regarding questions that these political leaders were asked or even why these questions were being asked. Would the Washington Post call this reporting.

It is interesting that by giving no information on the conversation that Ms. Rhee with some unknown person there is no possibility for another reporter to verify the "information" in this article.

Posted by: bsallamack | February 11, 2011 10:53 AM | Report abuse

As a School Teacher this does not surprise me at all. In fact, my School had repeatedly been dealing with lice outbreaks and bed bug reports since the Fall of 2010. After doing some reserach I did find that there was a way to prevent a lice and bed bug infestation so I took matters into my own hands when it came to protecting my classroom. I knew that there is only so much you can do but I had to do something. I got in contact with Fairy Tales Hair Care, Inc they have great products that repel lice and bed bugs. They were very helpful in educating me on what I needed to do in and out of the classroom to ensure that my classroom stays lice and bed bug free. I've been using their Rosemary Repel L/I spray in my classroom every single day in addition to their Sleep Tite Bed Bug Spray. The spray's are natural and safe to use around children and pets. There are no harmful chemicals in these products. It's unfortunate that I have to use my own funds to purchase these products but I feel it is something I must do since other classrooms in my district have been dealing with both lice and bed bug infestations. So far so good and I have not had one itchy child yet! It has become obvious to me over the years that lice will always be an issue. I don't understand we should have to wait until a child get's lice or until a home becomes infested with bed bugs to become active and educated. Why not start now? Prevention is so crucial when it comes to head lice and bed bugs! At least I have peace of mind when my students enter the classroom every morning!

Posted by: Jlynn55 | February 11, 2011 11:29 AM | Report abuse

Rhee faces renewed scrutiny over depiction of students' progress when she taught
By Nick Anderson, Washington Post

When the title show be "Rhee Admits To Incorrect Claim In 2007".

If someone states that past statements were incorrect with new evidence that might prove the statements were incorrect, the title should reflect that.

At issue is a line in Rhee's resume from that year that described her record at Harlem Park Elementary School: "Over a two-year period, moved students scoring on average at the 13th percentile on national standardized tests to 90 percent of students scoring at the 90th percentile or higher."

On Wednesday evening, Rhee said she would revise that wording if she could. "If I were to put my resume forward again, would I say 'significant' gains?" Rhee said. "Absolutely."

The new resume of Ms. Rhee:
Over a two-year period, moved students to significant gains on national standardized tests.

Posted by: bsallamack | February 11, 2011 12:10 PM | Report abuse

As a concerned parent of two young children, reading about this does not surprise me. I am definitely going to recommend these products to my child's school. I didn't even realize that there were products for prevention of lice and bed bugs. Prevention makes so much sense why didn't i think about this before!

Posted by: jodicoop | February 11, 2011 12:29 PM | Report abuse

You left out the most important aspect. Worse of all, bedbugs will make you really, really crazy.

It often leads to the development of Refractory Delusional Parasitosis, also known as Delusion of Parasitosis. A mental condition defined an overwhelming and debilitating obsession with bedbugs.

Half the people I know in DC & NYC have this condition. Most of them don't have bedbugs...yet.

Posted by: frankb1 | February 11, 2011 12:35 PM | Report abuse

Post a Comment

We encourage users to analyze, comment on and even challenge's articles, blogs, reviews and multimedia features.

User reviews and comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be removed from the site. Additionally, entries that are unsigned or contain "signatures" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. Finally, we will take steps to block users who violate any of our posting standards, terms of use or privacy policies or any other policies governing this site. Please review the full rules governing commentaries and discussions.

characters remaining

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2011 The Washington Post Company