This week, a Washington story made headlines when a mother blogged about terrible sunburn that her kids had suffered at school when they weren’t offered any sunscreen on a field trip. Sounds crazy, right? Crazier still, these anti-sunscreen policies are more common than you might think.
Why? In short, because of regulations that bar children from bringing drugs into school (even prescriptions) and sunscreen counts as an over-the-counter, notes Newser. A lot of these policies note that kids with sunscreen need a doctor’s note for it and specifically ban aides from handing it out. So when teachers in Tacoma, Washington denied Jesse Michener’s 11 and 9-year-old daughters sunscreen, causing their fair skin to burn and peel severely, they weren’t necessarily being cruel, they were following the rules.
Michener says that school officials have promised to change the rule, but leeway has to come from the states in order for policy to change. California fought this battle a decade ago and kids are able to bring sunscreen to school in that state now, but thus far, no other state has done the same, notes USA Today. Oftentimes, “sunscreen application at school seems to be an issue that each individual school district rules on,” says Jennifer Allyn of the American Academy of Dermatology. “Some treat sunscreen as they would any other fragrance-type product, and forbid their use to avoid allergic reactions. Others require a doctor’s note, and others treat sunscreen like something as basic as Chapstick.”
But sunscreen allergies aren’t any more common than allergies to soap. Where’s the line?
The other thing folks need to keep in mind is that adults could get in trouble for inappropriately touching children if they help students apply sunscreen to themselves. In Maryland, it’s fine so long as a parents says so.
Pretty much the best thing to do is form a committee and bother your local lawmakers until something is changed. If you live in a state with strange sunscreen policies, you can go to sunsafetyforkids.org for a play-by-play on how to best affect change.