Jesse Michener Outraged After Daughters Return From School Field Day With Severe Sunburns Because of State Sunscreen Law

(Photo: Jesse Michner)

Jesse Michener is outraged after her two daughters returned home from a school field day with what she described as “hurts to look at” sunburns because they weren’t allowed to put on sunscreen.

Michener said it was raining in the morning so she didn’t put sunscreen on the girls before they left, but even if she had, she noted that they would still have had to reapply it at some point.  And there’s the rub– apparently, teachers are not allowed to put sunscreen on students in Washington, and kids can only put it on themselves if they have a doctor’s note.

Michener wrote her own account of what happened on her blog, after explaining that she is particularly irritated because one of her daughters has a documented form of Albinism that makes her extra sensitive to the sun:

…after seeing the kids upon returning home from work, I immediately went to the school to speak with the principal. Her response centered around the the [school's] inability to administer what they considered a prescription/medication (sunscreen) for liability reasons. And while I can sort of wrap my brain around this in theory, 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 (an un-intuitive) 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. Had my children gone to school slathered in sunscreen (which they did not, it was raining), by noon – when the sun came out – they would have needed to reapply anyway. Something as simple as as sun hat might seem to bypass the prescription issue to some extent. Alas, hats are not allowed at school, even on field day.

My children indicated that several adults commented on their burns at school, including staff and other parents. One of my children remarked that their teacher used sunscreen in her presence and that it was “just for her.” So, is this an issue of passive, inactive supervision? Where is the collective awareness for student safety? If they were getting stung by bees, teachers would remove them. Staff need to be awake to possible threats or safety issues and be able to take action. Prolonged sun exposure leads to burns: either put sunscreen on or, at the very least, remove the child from the sunA simple call would have brought me to that school in minutes to assist my kids.

Common sense missing + fear of being sued = my kids pay the price. Not okay. [Emphasis added]

ABC has more information on the story, and on which states have similar regulations:

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Though the pictures clearly relate some of the damage, Michener said that the following days were even worse, once the girls’ faces started blistering and they became generally miserable.

“I’m out to change policy that ties [the school's] hands from making good decisions,” Michener wrote.

The school district has since apologized and informed Michener that a new law “[allows] for districts to make their own distinctions about what is and isn’t allowed at school with regard to sunscreen and other over-the-counter medications” and that school policy should be revised by October.