Students Burn After Denied Sunscreen on School Trip

Howard Portnoy of reports that there is an obscure law — which many parents don't know about — that can prohibit the use of sunscreen by students at public schools. Portnoy reports that it is enforced in all states bar California and derives from the fact that sunscreen is viewed, for liability reasons, as a medicine.

Tacoma, Wa., mother Jesse Michener was incensed to find that her daughters' skin was burned after a school outing last week. The burns were severe enough to require hospital treatment and resulted from a teacher stopping the children from using sunscreen.

Dan Voelpel, a spokesman with the Tacoma School District, told ABC, "Because so many additives in lotions and sunscreens cause an allergic reaction in some children, we have to really monitor that." The argument fails to account for the multitude of hypoallergenic sunscreens made expressly for children that are on the market.

Voelpel's comments are especially strange when one considers that the risk of adverse reaction to sunscreen is many times lower than the risk of adverse reaction to sunlight overexposure.

To make matters worse one of Michener's girls has a form of Albinism which makes her especially vulnerable. Michener wrote on her blog that the child concerned is blistering on her face, while both daughters have ‘headaches, chills and pain.'

Some commentators on her blog blamed her for not applying sunscreen herself to the children before they went to school, while others defended Michener, saying that it was unrealistic to apply sunscreen when the children woke and expect it to last all day.

Michener claims that consciousness-raising efforts have borne fruit. She writes that after the story went public, she received a call from the director of Elementary Education in Tacoma Public Schools informing her that henceforth districts would decide for themselves what's allowed and what's not.

While doing very little to soothe her children's current pain the change in policy means that the children won't have to stay home from future school trips for fear of getting ill. Michener is also challenging the state law that bans sunscreen use absent a doctor's express permission.

New York State's guidelines to school districts say, "A written order from a duly licensed prescriber and written parental permission to administer the medication are required."

06 26, 2012
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