ELIZABETHTOWN — It’s lights out for bed bugs in Bladen County schools.
At Monday’s Board of Education meeting, members and staff adopted a policy on bed bugs in the hopes of eradicating the pesky problem.
“Unfortunately, we’ve had it happen in other schools,” explained Robert Heavenridge, Board of Education Title IX coordinator. “They’re throughout the county, from east and west … sides of the river.”
The newly adopted policy states:
— Bed bugs in a school will be dealt with by collecting a specimen. If inspection of a classroom reveals no other bugs, evacuation is unnecessary, but identification of the specimen as a bed bug will result in consultation with a pest management representative, as well as an announcement by the principal to the school community.
“The school principal or designee will ensure that the school community is aware and provided with bed bug informational literature,” the policy reads. The document later says the letter will be sent “as determined by the Administration” and only after contacting the superintendent or designee.
— Bed bugs found on a student in school, per North Carolina law, will not result in students being sent home. The student will be temporarily removed in order that an inspection may be performed and so that educational materials can be provided for the home. The parents will be notified by letter. If bugs are found on a students belongings, the student will be discreetly provided a plastic container for storage while at school; the belongings will be isolated; the student will change into temporary clothing if possible; infested clothes may be dried on high for 30 minutes, if possible, after which time the clothes can be worn and the student return to class.
— Known infestations at home will be managed by the school nurse and school social worker, who will meet with the family to address mitigating the spread to the school environment.
“The letters that are sent out,” questioned Roger Carroll, “will they be sent out the day (bugs) are found?”
“I would imagine as soon as the administration finds there is a problem, they will send the letters out,” replied Taylor. “The only thing I can think of that would delay that would be if they found out late in the afternoon …”
The policy is an attempt to address a quandary for the Board of Education. Earlier this year, board members learned of a bed bug problem in at least three schools necessitating costly treatment on buses and leaving teachers with few recourses. Under North Carolina law, bed bugs are considered a nuisance, not a health hazard, so schools do not have the option of sending students home until the issue is resolved.
The problem perpetuates, according to district staff, in part because tenants claim infestations are a landlord problem, and landlords point the finger at tenants. In addition, treatment can be cost-prohibitive for homeowners, so the problem creeps into schools that are powerless to do anything about the root of the problem — home — and unable to keep children from bringing the bugs to school.
“The bottom line is the state legislature needs to put in place how we are going to get parents or whoever owns the house to treat it or resolve it,” Heavenridge commented.
The policy received unanimous approval.
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.