Schools’ Anti-Sunscreen Policies Anger Parents

Two elementary school girls in Tacoma, Washington have reportedly suffered severe sunburns after their school banned sunscreen, MSNBC.com is reporting.  The girls are sisters, and one of them has a skin condition that makes her especially sensitive to the sun.  According to MSNBC, the girls’ mother is challenging the ban:

Their mother said seeing her girls walk through the door was a moment she’ll never forget. “It was horrifying to see (Violet’s) bright red face. There were welts, she was swollen and then I saw Zoe’s shoulders. It was absolutely painful and gut-wrenching to look at. I was horrified.” The burns were so severe, [Jesse] Michener whisked her daughters to the local hospital for examinations.

When Michener pressed school officials on the ban, they told her that there is a state-wide policy that does not allow staff to apply sunscreen to students, and students can only apply it themselves if they have a doctor’s note. The law exists because the additives in lotions and sunscreens can cause an allergic reaction in children, and sunscreens are regulated by the FDA as an over-the-counter drug. Michener discovered that the policy exists in 49 states nationwide; California is the only state to allow sunscreen in school without a doctor’s note.

“I did share with the principal that any policy that didn’t allow her to use common sense was something that I had to do something about,” Michener said. “She nodded and shook her head.”

Image: Sunscreen, via Shutterstock

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  1. by Mrs. g

    On June 27, 2012 at 1:21 pm

    In my children’s school out east, y
    We sign a consent and supply teachers w the sunscreen. Maybe the schools will allow it under these conditions.

  2. by Carrie

    On June 27, 2012 at 1:21 pm

    Why can’t the parent provide the sunscreen or do like at my kids school, sign something saying that they want it applied or don’t want it applied.

  3. by Cat

    On June 27, 2012 at 1:28 pm

    Then why didn’t’ she apply sunblock to her children before school?

  4. by Mandy

    On June 27, 2012 at 1:39 pm

    Sunscreen only lasts for about 2-3 hours. If you have the last recess or late day field day, etc. it won’t make any difference if you apply it before school. If you have kids like my daughter, she will burn within 15 minutes of sun exposure. And sunburns in childhood can cause long lasting damAge such as melanoma. I really think a parent’s note should be enough to either apply by the teacher or the child themself

  5. by Dolphinbuddy

    On June 27, 2012 at 1:44 pm

    One application of sunscreen doesn’t last all day, Cat.

  6. by Carolyn

    On June 27, 2012 at 1:51 pm

    Cat: She may well have applied the sunscreen before they went to school. Not sure why you’d assume she didn’t. Most sunscreens, even the “bad” ones with the nasty chemical blocks, require reapplication after a small number of hours. The better sunscreens that have fewer or no bad ingredients require even more frequent reapplication (or, reapplication when going back outside). (see ewg dot org’s page on sunscreens for more information on good vs bad sunscreens)

    What’s not clear is if the mom sent it with an overt or just implied expectation that the staff apply it, or whether they forbade the children. Requiring a doctor’s note is absolutely ludicrous, however, given what we know now about needing sunscreen. I can see it might be a huge practical bottleneck especially for the younger grades where they are not able to apply it themselves, and I bet the older ones won’t want to take the time. Luckily, my son (with Down syndrome) has an IEP and we wrote sunscreen application into it.

  7. by Angie Shuck

    On June 27, 2012 at 2:19 pm

    This is appalling to read… as a melanoma survivor with a one and a half year old daughter, I cringe as I think of all the children being denied the right to be protected from the sun. I slather her with sunscreen in the morning and luckily for us, my daughter’s preschool reapplies (with a signed consent) before she goes back outside in the afternoon. The rise in melanoma is only going to continue with ridiculous bans such as this…

  8. by Julia

    On June 27, 2012 at 2:36 pm

    Wow. Just Wow.

    With parental consent, my 16-month old can have sunscreen applied at daycare.

    With a doctor’s note they were able to apply it when she was under SIX MONTHS OLD.

    Why is this not the case for school age children?

  9. by Jamie

    On June 27, 2012 at 3:06 pm

    This is odd. My son’s daycare in Illinois just announces that they’re going to apply daycare-supplied sunscreen and if you want something different, you can bring it in. (I provide my own because they use the chemical junk and my son has bad eczema and has had reactions to chemicals in personal care products.) I wonder if these regulations only apply to public schools?

  10. by Lisa

    On June 27, 2012 at 3:07 pm

    This has got to change..A preschooler cannot re-apply sunblock by themselves! What has happened to this country? Daycare is suppose to be the childs second home. The caretakers replace mom and dad during the day. This is something a care taker needs to be able to do….

  11. by Jacki

    On June 27, 2012 at 3:16 pm

    My child has special needs, takes medication that increases sensitivity to sunlight, lives in South Florida, and comes from a family with a long history of skin cancer. Having fought the sunscreen battle for quite awhile now, I can attest to the fact that while it is true children can have reactions to ingredients, Districts love such bans because it removes a “burden” to staff.

    To be fair, the logistics of keeping up with 20-40 different products and properly applying them to each child is extremely time consuming. Every time I’ve been part of a “community” supply there is always someone that brings an SPF 4, which gets throw in a bag and applied without notice until the kids start getting crispy.

    There really is no “easy” solution for parents or staff, except to stay indoors, but my child’s summer camp made this a top priority this year and it has worked wonderfully. Granted this is a camp for special-needs children thus it has a very low staff-child ratio, but it would, technically, work at any institution, were it made a priority by staff and parents.

    The primary guardians of every child were required to attend a meeting at the start of camp during which we agreed on a minimum SPF of 50 and that it must be water-proof. Anyone with an allergy alerted a specific staff member who then went through the donations and exchanged anything that was up to par. When making the daily schedule, specific time periods were allotted for staff to apply sunscreen every two hours on field trip days.

    We’re almost three weeks in and my child has been on five water-based trips (beach, water park, splash fountains, etc.) and hasn’t been burned once.

    Oh, did I mention this program is also designed for financially burdened families and costs about 1/10th of the regular day camps?

    Point being, it CAN be done. It CAN work, but not unless the program/District supervisors WANT it to happen.

  12. by Christina

    On June 27, 2012 at 3:50 pm

    Isn’t it crazy that it’s illegal to apply sunscreen to a child but it wasn’t illegal for Sandusky to shower with, lather up and message a child. I’m so sick and tired of being sick and tired of what our culture has come to.

  13. by Beth Jones

    On June 27, 2012 at 4:16 pm

    WOW!
    As a person who works with special needs students, THAT policy is dumb.
    During the nice weather, we often have the students out and about our community. Getting lotion on them is a must….Some wouldn’t have the know-how to do this, so it falls on us to help.
    As a parent, I would appreciate the staff making sure my child was protected from the sunny weather.
    And BTW……one of these outings is The Annual Special Olympics….Plenty of sun screen that day…So, if we didn’t lather them up, they’d go home burnt, sick and no doubt miss school the next day.
    Can someone send me the idiots name that came up with that one…I can pass it on to the Special Needs parents.

  14. by Catherine

    On June 27, 2012 at 5:14 pm

    yeah, this sounds like a ‘burden’ issue, which is ridiculous. Putting on sunscreen before going outside should be akin to putting books in bookbags before heading for the buses. I also have a son in a learning center and like everyone here posted, they had us to sign a consent form allowing them to apply sunscreen to the kiddos in the afternoons and set the expectation that we are to apply it in the mornings before bringing them since they try to play outside twice a day. It can work, it does work in many places, people just have to prioritize it. This isn’t like choosing whether or not to have ice-cream snacks at school, this is about the health of the children. Sun damage is serious business, and like someone else mentioned, sun damage during childhood years is far more dangerous than later in life (though we should always protect our skin). This is just ridiculous, and i hope NC changes this policy before my oldest starts kindergarten in 3 years. And to the person who minimized this to the mom simply needing to apply sunscreen to her kids in the mornings, that person needs to seriously educate themselves about skin care and protection, especially if they have children. I thought it was common knowledge that sunscreen needs frequent re-application but I guess I was wrong, and that’s plain scary.

  15. by Maria

    On June 27, 2012 at 6:07 pm

    I wonder if they would have an issue with all natural sunscreen (since additives and allergic reaction were added as reasoning). I work from home for a health and wellness company that makes just that (among many other products). It IS very important to wear sunscreen- especially with temps running so high in many areas and sensitive skin being so common.

  16. by Kathleen E.

    On June 27, 2012 at 8:39 pm

    Ridiculous! My son’s daycare requests I send in sunscreen, and they put it on him, no waiver required. My daughter’s elementary school required it for their field day, along with a hat and a towel to sit on, but I don’t recall if the teacher put it on her or if she did (likely the latter, considering the size of the class, but she could ask for help if needed). Again, no waiver needed. (We’re in NJ.) How much do you want to bet that policy will be reversed quickly if the mom sues the school, etc. and wins? Say a million or more for each daughter to cover the cost of future treatment for melanoma or other skin cancer? And if they are so worried about allergies and other reactions to the chemical versions of sunblock, why not ban those and require a physical sunblock like titanium dioxide?

  17. by Heather

    On June 27, 2012 at 10:04 pm

    Here in our school district (western PA), they allow children to take sun screen to school. In fact they send letters home recommending it when they have special outings (field trips, end of year field days, parades and what not). I’ve never had a problem with this.

    And I really need to know…..

    What has Sandusky got to do with sunscreen? REALLY?

  18. by Becky

    On June 28, 2012 at 12:16 am

    As a teacher I agree this rule is ridiculous but until the law changes I could lose my job and license for dispensing medications to students. I allow my students to put it on even though I’m not suppose to. My own child at school doesn’t get any in the afternoon. Luckily the lower playground is fairly shaded. No easy answer.

  19. by Janet Julien

    On June 28, 2012 at 1:51 am

    There are two possible solutions, I see to this problem if the teachers cannot put the sunscreen on the children when it is needed. First is Homeschooling with the attendant problems of one of the parents having to stay home to be the teacher. I realize that this is not workable in all situations but it is an option. The second is to call Children’s Protective Services on the school’s administration for their obvious NEGLECT of the needs of the students in their care. If the sunburns were as severe as to require the children to be seen in the ER, CPS more than likely would have been called on the Parents if it had happened at home. It’s time that the schools should be held accountable when, by their negligence, children suffer. I hope that mother sues the schoolboard for every penny they think they are worth.

  20. by Azrina

    On June 28, 2012 at 8:06 pm

    Thank God in Malaysia, we don’t have these bunch of ‘laws’.

    Our teachers still can use their God given common sense.

  21. by BB

    On June 29, 2012 at 10:46 am

    Speaking as a teacher with 28 kids in my class last year, should we really be expected to apply sunscreen to all of them every time we go out? (I know there will be a backlash of comments from this.) Luckily, I teach 9 and 10 year olds. They can put it on themselves. How about the teacher with 23 first graders? Should she really be expected to do that? It’s unrealistic! Our playground is fairly shady, so it’s not a huge problem where I am. However, for special things like field day, it could be. I work in a system where poverty is common and parents cannot take off work to come to school for such events. Personally, I think that parents should be able to sign a waiver and say the kids can apply it to themselves, but only if they supply it. I know that would be hard for young students, but if PARENTS would take time to teach children how to apply sunscreen, it could easily be done by the students. My 5 year old niece knows how to do this. It is important to remember that a teacher’s job is to TEACH your child. I have a very fair complexion and burn easlily, so I get it! Many people have no idea how much teachers do for their students! We love them like our own, we put in sooooo much time to prepare, we work hard to help them, and we spend tons of our own money! I am not a fan of field day anyway. It just takes away another day of learning. There are plenty of ways to create fun activities within the classroom. However, I do think it is important to allow short outside outings, like recess and science experiment time. So, I guess my point is: stop lashing out about teachers. We don’t make the rules, and disagree with many silly rules like this one. It is the system and the state making these decisions!

  22. by RJ

    On June 29, 2012 at 4:18 pm

    The mother knew her daughter’s medical condition. She should furnish a written physician’s orders for sunscreen. People have allergic reactions to sunscreen. That same mother would sue if her child had a reaction to school-supplied sunscreen. Also, the photo I saw showed the daughter wearing a thin-strap top. Why wasn’t she wearing a white cotton long-sleeve shirt and a wide brim hat? My grandmother ALWAYS worked in her garden wearing both items to protect her from the sun.She never used sunscreen, she worked in farm fields and gardens for YEARS. She didn’t have sun damage to her skin at 83 yrs old!
    Parents need to take responsibility for their children, even at school and daycare centers. Parents are still the PARENTS!

  23. by Marilyn

    On July 5, 2012 at 2:32 pm

    My 11 yo son with Aspergers came home from camp last thursday with bright red shoulders and BLISTERS all over his shoulders. By Friday the blisters were the size of half dollars and a good inch high. He has 2nd degree sunburn, because the camp (run by the city) never reapplied or even reminded HIM to reapply his sunblock. they KNOW he has Aspergers. We trust our children to these people and this is what happens. 2nd degree sunburn is permanent nerve and skin tissue damage. I am FURIOUS.