What do I do about roaches in a public school?
June 12, 2007 9:10 AM   Subscribe

I visited a public middle school, and it was filled with roaches, is there anything positive I could do for those kids?

I was visiting the middle school for an after school athletic event (we rent out schools sometimes), and we were all completely disgusted. The gym floor had dead roaches all over the place, the attached kitchen (the gym was also their lunch room) had roaches crawling across the stove, dead bugs everywhere, and the place smelled like bug spray.

Is there anything I could do for the kids? Right there above the bugs was a 2007 health department approval saying that no bugs were found on the property. Anyone know what would happen if I talked to the health department? What about politicians, etc? I hate to do nothing, but I know that it's certainly not uncommon to have nasty schools.

I also don't want to make the situation worse. I'd hate to have the school close down and these kids not have any options (not really sure what happens if a school closes down)
posted by ceberon to Law & Government (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
My High School was legendary for it's undefeated roach population.

Try contacting the superintendent first, or whoever the "CEO" of the school district is. They're probably aware of the problem and can tell you what they're trying to do to remedy it, but roaches are really really hard to kill.

If the superintendent doesn't address your concerns then you could escalate if you're so inclined.
posted by drezdn at 9:15 AM on June 12, 2007

Take pictures.
posted by limeonaire at 9:16 AM on June 12, 2007

(For documentation purposes, if you're interested in pursuing this at all.)
posted by limeonaire at 9:16 AM on June 12, 2007

You're wondering what would happen. It depends on where the school is and what options are available.

Recently there was a fire at a local high school which destroyed half the building and rendered the rest unusable. This was in a rural area one county over, and there is no other high school close by. The school district closed the school for a few days until they could bring in temporary modular buildings.

Meanwhile, in Houston the school district is considering closing "underperforming" schools to comply with a state mandate. If this happens, since the district is much larger, there are other schools close by where the students can be relocated.

Since we don't know what country or locality you're in, our advice is going to vague. I suggest you start by inquiring with the school district authorities and see what they say. If the answer is not satisfactory, call the health department. If you're still not satisfied, call the media.
posted by Robert Angelo at 9:24 AM on June 12, 2007

Whatever you decide to do, make sure to couch your actions in terms that leave no doubt that you are on the side of the school. It's really easy for this kind of story to become one of blame—which administrator fucked up this time?—which isn't really going to help anything. "Hey, community! This school is doing everything it can and yet they are still filthy! Let's get them more resources!"
posted by wemayfreeze at 9:34 AM on June 12, 2007

Is there a local university with an entomology department? A professor of mine talked a lot about his experience with bug control for the city of Baltimore. You may be able to get someone from there in such a way as not to get the school closed down. Someone with a degree in bugs will know ways to keep the population under control.
posted by frecklefaerie at 9:34 AM on June 12, 2007

Call the local newspaper and tell them about the health department approval (trying to make it about the health department and not the school itself)?
posted by altolinguistic at 9:35 AM on June 12, 2007

Seconding take pictures; a while back someone in my family had a similar experience, except it was about very poor maintenance in a school building (not bugs). They went and talked to the superintendent, who simply flat-out denied everything. Since they didn't have photos or any other proof, he wasn't interested.

Get photos, particularly ones that show bugs right under the certificate saying that it's bug-free, or bugs in the kitchen or around food. (Think of what would look good in a newspaper article.) Politicians understand pictures, because pictures can be sent to newspapers, and newspapers matter in local politics.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:39 AM on June 12, 2007

Just offering up another explanation to consider, but maybe you visited right after they had done a big spraying? The dorm that I lived in in college had a roach problem, and they came in to spray everything one day. The following week or so I saw more roaches than I ever had during the previous "infestation," and the administration informed us (true or not, I don't know) that the roaches will often come out of their hiding spaces to die after being sprayed.

Suffice to say that after that week, once the dead roaches had been cleaned up, I didn't see any for a long while.
posted by i less than three nsima at 9:42 AM on June 12, 2007

The roaches may or may not be the most serious problem the school has.

If you are serious, think about what you're willing to commit, ask whether any of your co-sports would also be willing to pitch in, and then call up the school office, talk to the principal, and ask what kind of help they most need. Maybe it _is_ insect abatement. Maybe it's tutoring (which would probably benefit from insect abatement, since volunteer tutors would be happier in a reduced-arthropod environment). But hey, I don't know what to do -- the school folks would be much more expert.
posted by amtho at 9:53 AM on June 12, 2007

i less than three nsima, is correct. After a professional spraying, you'll see dead roaches everywhere and lots of live ones running around poisoned. If you are truly concerned you should get your facts straight before assuming their pest problem isnt under control. Contact the superintendent or the principal first.
posted by damn dirty ape at 10:06 AM on June 12, 2007

Also, my experiences with professional pest control taught me that bugs cannot be completely removed just managed. Most likely is that you saw the place after a scheduled spraying. They probably pay a monthly or yearly fee to get biweekly or monthly sprays. Its not cheap either.

The inspectors certificate is probably accurate too. There are no bugs because they get regularly sprayed. After a spraying there are lots of dead bugs and panicked live ones.

Whatever you do, be mindful of your own ignorance about the situation. An outsider/lay person complaining to the wrong people without talking to the school first can do more bad than good.
posted by damn dirty ape at 10:14 AM on June 12, 2007

Lobby for better school funding?
posted by Thorzdad at 12:39 PM on June 12, 2007

Take pictures and send copies to the school's acrediting body, the school board, the city council, the health department and the local media. Make sure each letter attaching the pictures list the other places you sent the letter.
posted by Pollomacho at 1:54 PM on June 12, 2007

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