Bed bugs: Richland parents upset they didn’t know sooner

KEPR | by Christopher Poulsen |

RICHLAND, Wash. — Reports of bed bugs are causing concern in the Richland school district.

Upset parents contacted Action News saying their attempts to reach the district weren’t being taken seriously.

They tell us our early-Friday report motivated district leaders to start talking.

Richland_Schools_Bed_Bugs

Now they say they’re upset it took the attention of the media to get a response.

“There’s been several times we’ve had conflict with the district over different issues,” explains concerned Richland mom Lacey Kogan. “It’s largely because of a lack of communication and not being transparent.”

Kogan and friends with kids at the same school say they’ve been aware of the bed bug situation at Jefferson elementary since spring and now they’re fed up and doing something about it.

“We invited the media because we want the district to know that we need transparency all the time, immediately, when you first know there’s a problem let us know,” she says. “I’ve talked with administrators, I’ve talked with district, most recently I talked with [elementary assistant superintendent] Brian Moore about this issue.”

Kogan says it’s about more than the bed bugs, but that plays a huge part in her decision to speak out.

“I want our house not to have that problem. [Bed bugs] can become very expensive because they infest upholstery,” she says.

Kogan says for her it all comes down to communication.

“Every mom I know wants to know what’s happening with their kids at school. They’re there for most of their day,” she says.

Kogan and other unhappy mothers say they’ve tried contacting school leaders, but claim they never hear back.

Instead of waiting for confirmation, she says she’s using heat to kill any possible bed bugs on her children’s clothing.

“When my kids get home from school today, their backpacks, coats, everything that I can will go into the dryer,” she says.

Kogan is especially bothered that the district held on to it for so long; she says a simple heads up would have gone a long way.

“Because they were not forthcoming with [the information], now they have hysterical parents that are acting out of fear, instead of acting from a place of collaboration and coordination,” she says. “Now they’ve got angry parents.”

Action News tried to reach Richland schools but after multiple attempts we took a trip to the district office.

They claimed they couldn’t give ‘specifics, in order to protect children’s privacy’.

After our visit the district sent parents this letter:

To our Jefferson families,
We want to update you on a recent report of bedbugs at Jefferson Elementary. We understand the concern this situation has raised with our families. We are working with everyone involved to resolve this concern, have connected them with community resources and will continue to help them. While we cannot share any details that will violate student privacy, we can share that district staff have worked hard to monitor conditions in the school and ensure that any extra or special cleaning that is needed is carried out. We continue to take all necessary steps to protect every student. The Washington Department of Health has information on how to prevent bedbugs from entering a home, how to identify them and how to treat them. Thank you for your patience and your understanding as we address this situation.

District liaison Ty Beaver says the bed bugs were only found in a particular area of Jefferson elementary, not throughout the entire building.

Officials explain this is not an infestation and the bugs are likely being brought in from another source.

In a prepared statement, Richland Education Association (REA) says reports of crews spraying over weekends are nothing unusual:

Like many public spaces, bedbugs are sometimes unwelcome pests in our school buildings. While a nuisance, there is no health risk from bed bugs. The District regularly sprays classrooms for pests, bedbugs included.

Kogan says that may be the case but without proper communication with parents, parents might not know they need to be on the lookout.

She says bed bugs are notoriously hard to get rid of.

“It can quickly spread to become an entire community problem if it’s not properly addressed,” she explains. “Our job is to parent and we are responsible for making sure [our kids are] cared for and that they’re protected. We can’t do our jobs if we’re left in the dark and not informed.”

The Washington Department of Health has information on how to prevent, guard against, identify and treat bed bugs.

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