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Bed bugs found at Owen County schools

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Superintendent says no reason for panic

By Molly Haines

Since Sept. 22, several bed bugs have been found in Owen County schools, but Owen County Schools Superintendent David Raleigh said there’s no need for panic.
Owen County Elementary School was the first to send a letter home with students after two bed bugs were found in the school. On Oct. 3, Raleigh said three were found in one classroom around the same desk at Owen County High School, and one was found in the office of the Owen County Primary School.
Raleigh said none have been found at Maurice Bowling Middle School.
“The first thing schools do is determine whether or not it’s really a bed bug,” Raleigh said. “Sometimes it could be a beetle. If it is a bed bug, the child cannot return until they come back with a clean bill of health from the health department.”
An exterminator was brought in and went through all schools, but Raleigh said there were no more found. All areas where bed bugs had been found were treated.
The district’s current plan for dealing with bed bugs allows a school nurse or principal to discreetly remove a child from their classroom. A school nurse or “qualified” individual can perform an inspection of the student’s clothing and other belongings, including shoes, jackets, hats, books, backpacks and school supplies. The student’s unneeded items are to be placed in a large, tightly sealed plastic bag.
Measures are taken to prevent attracting attention to any child, and the child’s parents are notified.
Raleigh said everyone involved has done exactly what they were supposed to do.
“If it’s an infestation, obviously we would take different precautions,” Raleigh said. “We don’t want to create panic, because there’s no reason for panic.”
According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s website, adult bed bugs are generally 1/4 to 3/8 of an inch long; brown in color; and with a flat, oval-shaped body. Young bed bugs are smaller and lighter in color.
Bed bugs hide in a variety of places. Around the bed, they can be found near the piping, seams and tags of the mattress and box spring, and in cracks on the bed frame and head board.
If a room is heavily infested, they can be found in the seams of chairs and couches, between cushions, in the folds of curtains, in drawer joints, in electrical receptacles and appliances, and under loose wall paper and wall hangings.
Raleigh said the district is looking into updating its bed bug policy.
“Myself, the school nurse, the health department and our director of maintenance and facilities are coming up with a better way of informing the public of this kind of thing,” Raleigh said. “What we don’t want to do is put out inaccurate information or different information to the schools. We want to make sure we’re telling everyone the same thing.”