Sunscreen in Schools

On April 18, 2017, the NBC Nightly News ran a story regarding the use of sunscreen by students in schools. News reporter Kristen Dahlgren highlighted a family in which two young girls had been severely burned during school activities while teachers used sunscreen to protect themselves.

It was reported that the teachers had wanted to apply sunscreen on the students, but were not allowed to by local laws. The report went on to say that students in most states are not allowed to have school workers apply sunscreen on them and that sunscreen can only be brought to school with a doctor’s note.

Youths at risk for not wearing sunscreen at school

Dr. Joshua Zeichner, from Mt. Sinai Hospital Department of Dermatology, stated that even one sunburn in childhood doubles the risk of skin cancer for the rest of a person’s life. Dahlgren explained that studies show that melanoma is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in youth 15-19 years of age. The report then focused on the fact that states like California and New York now allow school workers to apply sunscreen on students and that a few other states are considering, or in the process of, allowing it as well.

Outside and protected

As a parent of a high school student, these stories hit home. My daughter had to have a doctor’s note to bring lip balm on a band trip to Chicago a couple of years ago. It is understandable that schools must monitor what students bring to school. With the opioid epidemic and other dangerous activities, due diligence is required. Yet, it is also good practice to consider the effect of current policies on the lives of those who are most vulnerable in our community.

In our particular area, parents are required to attend a meeting on district policies regarding student behavior, drug addiction, alcohol abuse, and other critical topics. I feel safe knowing that I live in a state where students can bring and apply sunscreen prior to outdoor school activities, as any parent of a child playing football, softball or other sports under the hot sun will attest. Let us protect the future generations.

When I was a child

I don’t recall ever putting on any sunscreen on any school day as a child or a teen. Growing up in Los Angeles, I remember spending every lunch hour (all year) playing dodgeball, football, basketball, all outside. It never occurred to me (or probably my parents) that the lotion I may have used at the beach should have been applied at school as well.

I accumulated a lot of sun exposure for many years simply by going to school. It was not Newport Beach-- it was the backfield at Jordan Elementary School. It was not laying out on the sand-- it was on the asphalt courts and grass fields across the street from where I lived. Summer days were no different. I was one of those kids who had to be home when the street lights came on and often that was about 9:00 pm. I was outside again all day with no sun protection.

Moving forward

The hope here is that as our community becomes more educated, it also becomes more diligent. Advocacy efforts at state and local levels are bringing about reform that will hopefully help change the equation regarding healthy skin and living long, fulfilling lives. It will be interesting to document further changes in the law as more and more people become aware of the issues that affect them most. Kudos to Lester Holt and his crew for reporting on these efforts.

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