When the sun is bright and the temperatures rise, it’s no secret that protecting little ones’ sensitive skin with sunscreen is vital
That’s why a Tacoma, WA, mom was so surprised last week to see two of her three daughters come home from their school’s field day so severely burned that she took them to the hospital.
The mother later learned that teachers couldn’t simply apply sunscreen to the girls because Tacoma Public Schools policy bars teachers from putting it on students and requires a doctor’s note for students who want to apply their own.
Sunscreen rules are not just a feature of far-off Washington. Patch talked with Minnesota districts and found a range of policies ranging from nonexistent to limits on staff assistance:
- staff are generally not involved with sunscreen application. If the students are going on a field trip, the release form will ask families to send sunscreen or apply it before going to school. When the district’s Kids Club visits the pool in the summer, staff ask families to send sunscreen to have on site.
- At before- and after-school program, Kids and Company, parents sign a permission slip when they register allowing staff to apply sunscreen. If they sign the permission slip, any staff can apply the sunscreen. If they don’t sign the permission slip, staff can’t apply sunscreen.
- does not have a district policy on sunscreen use. A district spokesman speculated that may be because students spend most of the day indoors, where they have limited exposure to the sun.
None of the districts Patch talked to required a doctor’s note.
It’s easy to understand why districts don’t want staff applying sunscreen to students willy-nilly. With risks ranging from allergies to inappropriate touching—or even just the perception of inappropriate touching—a hand-off approach avoids the all-but-inevitable problems.
At the same time, sunburns have real risks, too. Exposure to the sun is the leading cause of skin cancer, and 60 to 80 percent of total lifetime sun exposure takes place in the first 18 years of life, according to Johns Hopkins. Students, especially young ones, aren’t always going to be able to apply sunscreen well enough to protect themselves from those risks.
So what do you think is the best way to keep kids safe? Should teachers be able to apply sunscreen when they think it’s needed? Should sunscreen only be applied by the students themselves? Should there be some balance that requires parental permission or limits sunscreen duties to select staff, such as the school nurse? Tell us what you think in the comments below.