School policy in 49 states leaves children at risk of sunburn

Jun 26, 2012 3 Comments by

Mother Jesse Michener of Tacoma, WA walked into her home after work on June 19th to find her two daughters had both severely sunburned that day while at school.

Michener’s daughters Violet, 11, and Zoe, 9, had spent the day outdoors for a school field day. While it rained in the morning, by noon the sun was out and students rushed outside to play. Being under the mid-day sun, when the sun is strongest, the girls began to burn.

Horrified, Michener immediately marched into the principal’s office only to learn that the school cannot allow sunscreen use on students due to a statewide policy and for liability reasons. The same policy exists in 49 states –preventing most students from applying sunscreen at school. The law exists due to the additives in lotions and sunscreens that can potentially cause allergic reactions and sunscreens are regulated by the FDA as an over-the-counter drug. Exception is only granted with a written physician’s note. At the moment, California is the only state that allows students to apply sunscreen at school without doctor approval.

Michener’s daughter Zoe is extremely sensitive to sun due to a form of albinism. Even though school staff were aware of Zoe’s condition, she still was not allowed to use sunscreen.

Michener, outraged by this policy, wrote a post on her photography blog expressing her concern and placing her girl’s sunburn photos at the top (pictured above). Michener writes, “The practice of a blanket policy which clearly allows for students to be put in harm’s way is deeply flawed. Not only does a parent have to take an unrealistic step by visiting a doctor for a ‘prescription’ for an over-the-counter product, children are not allowed to carry it on their person and apply as needed… Something as simple as a sun hat might seem to bypass the prescription issue to some extent. Alas, hats are not allowed at school, even on field day!”

Since Michener posted, this policy has received attention from media outlets across the nation, including the Today Show on NBC. Schools also have started discussing the current sunscreen/over-the-counter drug policy, and begun pushing revisions.

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