Educate Others Parenting School sun safety

School policy in 49 states leaves children at risk of sunburn

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.

What would you have done? Share your thoughts about sunscreen use in schools on our Facebook page!

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  • laura

    CDC guidelines and recommendations to schools have been shoved in their drawers, hidden. and not installed into their policies regarding reducing uv radiation of students. CDC guidelines to schools states that between 10am to 4 pm. is high radiation. So scheduling outdoor activities like field day should be between 8 am to 10 am, and not to schedule it for 5 HOURS!!! Also says UV radiation highest late spring/early summer. What the CDC is saying, DONT schedule outdoor activities, like field day at the end of the school year as it puts the children in the UV radiation danger zone. Every mom and dad should look up “CDC guideline to schools” print it up and highlight info. and turn it in to your principal. And if there is an emergency FIRE drill at school, do it sometime between 8 am and 10 am so the students dont get BURNT

  • jj

    My sons school allowed it, as long as I provided it. Although, I think there needs to be yearly revisions, same as other documents for each child at school. The schools must be held accountable for these types of things. Would they have provided an umbrella or poncho for the rain? If they aren’t “responsible” how can we as parents be responsible if the school dictates their curriculum? Or, is this an invitation for parents to start enforcing and\or dictating the curriculum for the school, in which case, what are they being paid for? Regardless, that is the safety of our children in their hands, they should be making better choices, after all, isn’t that what we teach our children, to “make good choices”?

  • Huxaifa

    Review by A. Fryar for Rating: I’ve had a hard time finding a sun hat oinnle for my infant son and finally settled on this one. This hat (0-6mths) is big for my son and he has a big head for 2mths! I have to tie the velcro ties instead of press them (too much room left for baby’s head). No way a newborn could ever wear this. The color came as described: light blue. It’s lightweight and non-stuffy; perfect for warm/hot weather. Lots of coverage too front and back which is wonderful! I plan to keep this and will continue to use till his head grows into it (also buying addtl. hats that will fit better for now as well).

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