The daughters of Jess Michener, after school refused to let them use sunscreen without a doctor's note.

BOLD SOCIAL POLICY, 2017: Five Years After Girls’ Severe Sunburn, Washington Considers Bill to Let Students Use Sunscreen Without Doctor’s Note

Welcome to America, 2017, where it requires an act of bicameral legislation to even CONSIDER allowing children the teeniest modicum of self-sufficiency: In Washington State, the House just passed a bill that would allow students to use sunscreen at school without a doctor’s note.

It’s like open carry, but for Coppertone.

In an article titled, “Lawmakers consider allowing sunscreen in schools” by the Associated Press, the Tri-City Herald reports

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38 Responses to BOLD SOCIAL POLICY, 2017: Five Years After Girls’ Severe Sunburn, Washington Considers Bill to Let Students Use Sunscreen Without Doctor’s Note

  1. Dienne April 11, 2017 at 12:13 pm #

    Sunscreen is all kinds of fun. Washington apparently didn’t allow it, whereas some of the summer program my kids have attended have mandated it. One camp made them refresh every half-hour. Then there’s the issue of who can apply it to whom. Mostly kids can apply it to themselves, but what about little kids, disabled kids and backs and other areas that are difficult to reach on one’s self? Can’t have kids applying it to each other. Most definitely can’t have male staff applying it to female campers (or, to a lesser extent, female staff applying it to male campers). Even same-gender application takes an act of God. Or, at least, a consent form signed in triplicate.

    And ya gotta love the hat issue. Because, ya know, all the street gangs are wearing sun hats these days!

  2. BL April 11, 2017 at 12:15 pm #

    “It’s like open carry, but for Coppertone.”

    Concealed carry, surely.

    “The Democratic-controlled [House] unanimously passed the measure Monday”

    Since it was unanimous, I guess Democratic-controlled means they control Republicans?

    “… hats are not allowed at school, even on field day.”

    Are these assault hats?

    “Skin is just skin, but rules are RULES”

    Befehl ist Befehl.

    “Because so many additives in lotions and sunscreens cause allergic reaction in children, you have to really monitor that”

    But don’t monitor sunburn. Gotcha. After all, it’s for the children!

  3. Vicki Bradley April 11, 2017 at 12:21 pm #

    When you read articles such as this one, it truly makes one think the world is going crazy! It’s certainly cruel, and almost seems criminal, that the teachers applied sunscreen to themselves, all the while watching the students under their care get sunburnt. I would be furious if I were the parent of any of those students. Also, since when does an over-the-counter product need a doctor’s prescription? The whole point of a product being over-the-counter is that you don’t need a prescription to use it.

    As my husband, who spent a year in Israel, likes to say: “Oy vey!”

  4. Another Katie April 11, 2017 at 12:21 pm #

    This is insanity. In our state, daycare regulations allow caregivers to apply “non-medicated” creams and lotions with a parent’s signature indicating that they have applied the cream at home with no ill effect. Otherwise you’d have to get a prescription for daycare to put diaper cream on your infant or sunscreen on your toddler.

    Logically, if daycare can put diaper cream on a baby or sunscreen on a toddler without a freaking doctor’s note, then a school-aged kid should be able to apply lotion – including sunscreen lotion – to themselves at school without a doctor’s note. This isn’t rocket science. To be blunt, pediatricians have much better uses of their time than signing a doctor’s note or prescription for sunscreen for a school-aged child.

    Our older daughter is 6 and she went to Girl Scout camp last summer at 5 years of age. She was responsible for reapplying her own sunscreen and insect repellent after swimming – the counselors would help get the back of her neck and ears if she asked, but the girls had to take responsibility for their own health and well-being.

  5. fred schueler April 11, 2017 at 12:38 pm #

    “alas, hats are not allowed at school, even on field day.” – they’re really aggressively pushing the limits of the bizarre here. Some would say that no one should be allowed outdoors bare-headed, because, you know, sunburn and frostbite. But I’m descended from Danbury, Connecticut, where the hat industry was destroyed by JFK’s desire to show off his snappy hairstyle.

  6. Workshop April 11, 2017 at 1:19 pm #

    I remember filling out the form for my sons to have sunscreen applied at their daycare. When I handed it to the manager, I commented “It’s sad that common sense has to have a form on file.”

  7. Anna April 11, 2017 at 1:20 pm #

    There’s something truly bizarre about a school system where whether a 9 or 11-year-old can apply sunscreen to herself is even considered to be any of the school’s business. We really do treat schoolchildren like prisoners in a super-max. In what other context would such an invasion of bodily privacy and self-care be tolerated?

  8. JulieH April 11, 2017 at 1:26 pm #

    Let me start off by saying I think it is silly, in this day and age, with all our knowledge about skin cancer, that we are even having this conversation.

    That said, if my kid suffered from a form of albinism that made my kid prone to burns (and also likely more prone to developing skin cancer), I would comply with the policy and have it in place for my kid WHILE I fought with the administration about the overall necessity. Having my kid get a severe sunburn on principle wouldn’t seem right.

    Here in Indiana, many of us know that overcast skies can be worse than open sun for damaging sunburn. Don’t they have access to that information in Washington state?

  9. M April 11, 2017 at 1:33 pm #

    If adults in charge cannot or will not practice common sense, how in the world do we expect children to develop common sense?

    Please, let us go back to the days where over-the-counter meds are not treated like the same as heroin and crack cocaine, and and police and CPS isn’t called because mom tucks a cough drop in her kid’s pocket.

  10. Curt Abbott April 11, 2017 at 3:47 pm #

    This is the nanny state run amok. Sunscreen is now too dangerous for kids to apply it because it MIGHT cause an allergic reaction????? Puh-lease!!

  11. Cristabel April 11, 2017 at 3:48 pm #

    My son’s school won’t allow lip balm. Thus he often has a red ring around his mouth which I battle incessantly when he’s home. I get it cleared up just in time for school on Monday mornings.

  12. Papilio April 11, 2017 at 4:37 pm #

    :-O I take everything back! The US really IS the Home of the Brave! How could I ever not see that

  13. CrazyCatLady April 11, 2017 at 5:06 pm #

    For the people wondering why the mom in the case above didn’t have this written in stone before this day:

    1. The West Side of WA has about 5 totally sunny days a year. They usually occur in the week around the end of July, beginning of August.
    2. Field day happens 1 day a year…it is easy to forget that day, especially when most years you are covered up by rain coats and hoodies.
    3. Ray Bradbury was probably writing about the West Side when he wrote “All Summer in a Day” a short story set on Venus where the sun only comes out for 20 minutes every 7 years so that the kids in the class have no idea what the sun is or why their classmate from Earth wants to see it so badly.

    Really and truly, it rains a lot. When it is not raining, it is cloudy. The sun being out for more than an hour is exciting. Kids get used to playing on wet slides and have no idea that they can get hot when the sun is out.

    Don’t bash this mom. Let all of us, including my kids, who live on the East Side where we DO get lots of sun, use sunscreen. That stuff does wear off and putting it on once in the morning…will not do for the whole day with most brands.

  14. James Pollock April 11, 2017 at 5:09 pm #

    To be fair to the schools, school is primarily an indoor activity in most Washington schools on nearly all days. You don’t usually NEED sunscreen when you are indoors, sitting in a classroom.

    “a day that began as rainy (it’s Washington, after all)”

    Most of Washington is desert. Yes, there’s rainforest on the peninsula, but the eastern half is WAY different.)

    It’s hard to tell, because the links to Ms. Michener’s blog appear to be dead links, but I think she’s in Tacoma, which is on the wet side (it’s a seaport, after all) but there’s also a citation to the Tri-Cities Herald, and the Tri-Cities are on the dry side.

    My question is… if the girls are clearly sunburning, and you’re not allowed to put sunscreen on them or even let them put sunscreen on themselves… why weren’t they sent to someplace shaded?

  15. James April 11, 2017 at 5:10 pm #

    It’s only going to get worse. In my Red Cross first aid/CPR training we were informed that while we can put medication in a person’s hand, we cannot–under any circumstances–actually put it in their mouths. This included prescription and OTC medication. If someone is dying from an allergic reaction we can hand them the epi pen but NOT inject it. Only medical staff–doctors, nurses, and EMTs–can actually put medicine in someone’s body. The specific reason given: If you put medicine in someone’s body they can sue you. Good Samaritan laws do not cover giving medication. And if they don’t, their insurance company will.

    Let that sink in for a moment. We were told to LET PEOPLE DIE because otherwise we may get sued.

    This sunscreen nonsense is merely a consistent application of this same principle. It has nothing to do with keeping people safe or healthy; the risk being averted is lawsuits and insurance claims.

  16. BL April 11, 2017 at 5:38 pm #

    @James Pollock
    “My question is… if the girls are clearly sunburning, and you’re not allowed to put sunscreen on them or even let them put sunscreen on themselves… why weren’t they sent to someplace shaded?”

    Probably against protocol. Remember this one?

    http://www.freerangekids.com/obeying-protocol-school-keeps-girl-outside-in-5-degrees-in-wet-bathing-suit/

  17. Buffy April 11, 2017 at 6:15 pm #

    The hat thing got me wondering. I don’t know how cold it gets in Washington in the winter, but does it get cold enough for a winter hat? If so, are those disallowed as well?

  18. donald April 11, 2017 at 6:34 pm #

    I Love It! I love to see stuff like this exposed. Bureaucracy sometimes becomes so rigid that common sense doesn’t apply. More than that, it’s actually the ‘enemy’ of the system. I’m certain the teachers that applied sunscreen on themselves hated to see that they weren’t allowed to let the students do the same unless they had a doctor’s certificate. However, they know that if they ‘bend’ the rules, they could get fired.

    If the bureaucrats that make rules ridged like this end up looking stupid, I won’t feel sorry for them at all. In fact, I’ll feel like dancing on the table!

  19. SKL April 11, 2017 at 6:41 pm #

    Don’t get me started on sunscreen, LOL. And soaps and hand sanitizers. My kids have at times been required to use these, even though I asked that they be allowed to NOT use them. The sunscreen – my kids have brown skin and we don’t do sunscreen. Don’t argue with me about it, I’ve done the research, playing in the sun does not cause brown children to get cancer. Additives in some sunscreens are carcinogenic, though. As for soap, yes we do wash, but the school’s soap was so nasty it gave my kid rashes. No choice, she HAD to use it. (They did eventually switch to a better soap.) And hand sanitizers were also required at certain times and places. No choice.

    It’s stupid whether they are mandating it or forbidding it. The parent and eventually the kid should have the right to decide. I can understand not allowing sharing if there are severe allergies involved, but if I send my kid to school with cream xyz, the most I expect is a call asking if I actually approved that.

  20. James Pollock April 11, 2017 at 6:41 pm #

    “Probably against protocol. Remember this one?”
    Well, no, honestly, I didn’t.
    But whereas it makes sense to not let students get into teachers’ cars, I’m having trouble finding a reason to keep children out of the shade.

    “The hat thing got me wondering. I don’t know how cold it gets in Washington in the winter, but does it get cold enough for a winter hat?”

    Depends on which part of Washington you’re in. The western population centers rarely see snow that sticks to the ground. Not so in eastern Washington. (and the mountain ranges are left as no-brainers… Mt Rainier is 14000 feet tall.)

  21. CrazyCatLady April 11, 2017 at 8:15 pm #

    James Pollock, I sent this to Lenore. I DO live on the East Side, where it IS sunny, and I know parents would like to have their kids use sunblock from time to time. Locally, the schools have built new buildings which means they cut down all the 50 year old elm trees that were shade (and took out all the swings, don’t get me started.)

    But…it came up on NPR last night (local news) and found it this morning in the newspaper, so forwarded it on, remembering the post from the past. But yes, the climate is VERY different, one side to the other. The East Side, however, is very sparsely populated compared to the West Side. Lots more people over there…which has interesting voting implications. And may be why the article talks about Democrat controlled, as this side (East Side) leans strongly to the other party…..

    Right before I moved here I got in an argument at the dentist with another client who assured me that I was WRONG, that ALL of Washington gets tons of rain and it rains all the time and she knew because she lived there. (Geographically challenged was my determination). I could not convince her that my area gets about the same amount of rain as Death Valley on a good year. Whatever. Educate as we can! But yes, to the rest of the world, Washington State IS Seattle, just like New York is all New York City. (And yes, used to live upstate there and had to explain to people that I had never been “to the big city.”)

  22. CrazyCatLady April 11, 2017 at 8:31 pm #

    Kids can wear hats TO school, but must leave them off when AT school. When I was a kid it was you must take them off when INSIDE the school. Our public school/homeschool hybrid had a principal who didn’t care. One teacher was in a car accident and she had no hair for a good long time. She wore hats, no one cared. A few kids wore hats. Then we got a new principal….and our teacher who LOVED her hats….also had to take them off. At some point….sanity reigned and even kids were allowed to wear hats….even in the school. That silly panda hat is not gang affiliated
    .

  23. Nicole April 12, 2017 at 12:03 am #

    We actually had a local rule in MD (can’t remember if it was state-wide or just a county) that stated that summer camp counselors couldn’t apply sunscreen to kids because of fears of being accused of sex abuse. They reversed it after a huge outcry from parents.

    But this is even more ridiculous! What about sunscreen being a medical necessity to prevent all sorts of health problems?? Food is regulated by the FDA. Kids can have allergies to food. Should we require a doctor’s note for kids to eat at school? Soap can cause allergic reactions. Should kids need a doctors note to wash their hands?

    Honestly, people. Stop trying to come up with excuses to regulate more stuff try a little common sense.

  24. Marni April 12, 2017 at 8:49 am #

    I’m a primary care physician. I have enough crap to do without wasting my time writing notes for people to apply lotion. This is ridiculous.

  25. Jill R April 12, 2017 at 9:00 am #

    This is insane… our public health unit (in Ontario, Canada) requires us to put it on our daycare kids, parents can supply it or we have our own to use on them.
    Is skin cancer not a factor for these school boards?! Our local schools let kids have it and teachers will remind kids to reapply on very sunny days. Not sure if there’s a rule about schoolteachers applying it or not…

  26. Donna April 12, 2017 at 9:30 am #

    “The law exists because the additives in lotions and sunscreens can cause an allergic reaction in children…”

    While the whole thing is incredibly stupid, I think that it is a fairly safe bet that parents, even the worst parents, do not send their children to school with sunscreen that they are allergic to, and elementary school kids are not buying sunscreen on the downlow with their allowance and hiding it from their parents, so it seems kinda ridiculous to require a doctor’s note for kids to apply something they brought with them to school.

  27. Havva April 12, 2017 at 10:46 am #

    “The law exists because the additives in lotions and sunscreens can cause an allergic reaction in children…”

    That is a ridiculous excuse. Food can also cause an allergic reaction in children (and adults). So can balloons, makeup, soap, jewelry, leather, and more. Yet we don’t require a doctor’s note for lunch, balloon animals, face painting, hand washing, bead stringing, couch sitting, or anything else that ‘may cause an allergic reaction’ but almost never does and is especially low risk when the kid has done it many times before without harm. Furthermore allergies can crop up at any time without warning. If the kid has a surprise allergic reaction to the sunscreen mom sent, can’t the school nurse handle it, like they handle any other surprise allergic reaction?

  28. James Pollock April 12, 2017 at 12:14 pm #

    “I’m a primary care physician. I have enough crap to do without wasting my time writing notes for people to apply lotion.”

    Why not just add it to the “well-child” paperwork you’re doing already? Surely the patient’s chart tells you if they’re allergic to anything that might be used in sunscreen. If you’re in Washington, you’re already generating forms certifying to the schools that the kid is properly immunized. Add a checkbox at the bottom that says “This child can have sunscreen” If you need to save even THOSE 30 seconds, make the checkbox say “unless this box is checked, this child can have sunscreen”.

    “While the whole thing is incredibly stupid, I think that it is a fairly safe bet that parents, even the worst parents, do not send their children to school with sunscreen that they are allergic to”

    Thing is, the school doesn’t just have to protect YOUR kid, but also all the OTHER kids. When you selected a sunscreen, did you check first to make sure that none of your kid’s classmates were allergic to any of the ingredients?

    “That is a ridiculous excuse. Food can also cause an allergic reaction in children [ … ] Yet we don’t require a doctor’s note for lunch,”
    Nope. But if one of the kids has a known food allergy, that food gets banned. Not too bad with the mangoes my ex-wife was allergic to, slightly more challenging with the peanut allergy one of the kids in my daughter’s grade school had. Because these allergens don’t just produce a reaction when consumed, but also just from skin contact.

  29. Donna April 12, 2017 at 3:36 pm #

    “Thing is, the school doesn’t just have to protect YOUR kid, but also all the OTHER kids. When you selected a sunscreen, did you check first to make sure that none of your kid’s classmates were allergic to any of the ingredients?”

    Tell kids not to use anyone else’s sunscreens. Problem solved. Or better yet, trust that the parents of the very few kids who have sunscreen allergies will train their children not to use any sunscreen other than that provided by them and accept that sunscreen allergies are not life threatening and therefore not the end of the world if one occurs because an allergic child did not follow their parents direction to not use someone else’s sunscreen.

    “But if one of the kids has a known food allergy, that food gets banned.”

    If that were true, kids could consume nothing except water in school. SOME schools ban peanuts; a ban that rarely has any connection any specific kid and is just a rule. The thousands of other food allergies are pretty universally ignored. And many school districts, like mine, ban nothing. Not from lunches eaten in the lunchroom. Not from snacks eaten in the classroom. Despite our refusal to vilify peanuts or any other food, there has not been a reported cross-contamination allergic reaction in any of our 21 schools in the 35 years my family has lived here.

  30. red April 12, 2017 at 5:25 pm #

    @James Pollock:

    No, peds in Washington state aren’t generating well child paperwork to give to the schools. The only immunization paperwork which needs to be submitted for public school enrollment can be filled out and signed by the parent. We’ve actually asked our son’s Washington doctor to call up and transfer his records from Illinois multiple times and they’ve never done it. His Washington doctor has no record of his vaccinations–and my son has been in Washington public school for 3.5 years at this point.

    I’m actually glad we kept a copy of a DCFS health form the Illinois ped filled out at one point, because that’s the only record I have at this point.

  31. Jessica April 12, 2017 at 5:28 pm #

    This happened to my daughter 4 years ago. She’s blond and fair and they did an unplanned outside day. She wasn’t allowed to call me for sunscreen, she wasn’t allowed to use a friends who had some in her backpack (against the rules) from the weekend, and she wasn’t allowed to go in the shade.
    She was BRIGHT red, it hurt just to move. When I called the school to find out what had happened, they said “it’s just a sunburn, it’s better than possibly having a skin reaction.”
    You heard it here first. Skin cancer is better than needing benydryl. Oregon just last year made it ok for children to bring sunscreen.

  32. CrazyCatLady April 12, 2017 at 9:28 pm #

    The law (or lack of one) exists because it applies to OTC medications, and as sunscreen is regulated so that people get what they think they are getting, it is considered an OTC med.

    My daughter, in 9th grade, had to get a note from the doctor to take a Tylenol to relieve her cramps. When she had a head ache and went to ask for her Tylenol, they wouldn’t give it to her because that was not on the note. They called me to come get her. I got there and she was in tears as she thought I would be mad for coming out there. When I found out….I was mad at the syestem. I gave her a Tylenol and she went back to class. That night we agreed that if she had a headache again, she should lie and say she had cramps.

    But, on the other side, there are always going to be the stupid, risk taking kids. Caffeine pills are OTC and safe for people to use in moderation. I talked to a 12 year old who was given some on the bus. Thinking that they must be okay, because they were OTC, when 1 didn’t give her a buzz, she took 10. She ended up in the ER with irregular heart beat and came close to over dosing on them.

  33. Jon April 13, 2017 at 2:06 am #

    If they’re THAT worried about allergies, sunscreen shouldn’t even be an issue. How dare they endanger kids by exposing them to sunlight, one kid might have erythropoietic protoporphyria!

    I sure hope they’re not skimping on testing kids clothes and food for potential allergens during the morning search either.

  34. Papilio April 13, 2017 at 8:48 am #

    @CrazyCatLady: “Right before I moved here I got in an argument at the dentist with another client who assured me that I was WRONG, that ALL of Washington gets tons of rain and it rains all the time and she knew because she lived there. ”

    That’s dumb. Even within this tiny country at the North Sea it’s perfectly clear that the south east gets colder weather (more snow!) in the winter and hotter weather in the summer, while near the coast the weather is always milder.

  35. Havva April 13, 2017 at 12:38 pm #

    “Thing is, the school doesn’t just have to protect YOUR kid, but also all the OTHER kids. When you selected a sunscreen, did you check first to make sure that none of your kid’s classmates were allergic to any of the ingredients?”
    –Really @James Pollock, you can do better than that. Do you think the doctor’s note proves that the sunscreen is safe for all of the kid’s classmates? — Of course it doesn’t.

    The doctor only has access to his/her own patient’s medical records and doesn’t know who else is in the child’s class. Even if by some strange chance there was a pediatrician who knew who was in class with whom, and the kids all happened to go to the same pediatrician, telling parents they have to select a different sunscreen because someone in the child’s class was allergic to that sunscreen could be construed as a HIPAA violation.

    This isn’t even a particularly sensible precaution for ensuring the child for whom the sunscreen is being quazi prescribed isn’t allergic to it. The doctors my family go to are rigorous about allergies. Partly professionalism, partly I have a history. The check consists of asking the patient if they have ever reacted to that thing or anything like it before. If not they tell the person with allergies “you should be fine, stop using it and call me if you have a reaction.” If you have never used anything like it before they remind you what symptoms to watch for and tell you to stop using it and call if you have a reaction. Ultimately the responsibility for knowing if you are allergic to something rests with the patient or the patient’s guardian. The pediatricians rely on the parent’s certification. So why on earth can’t the schools?

  36. Dingbat April 14, 2017 at 12:58 pm #

    @James

    It’s awful, isn’t it? More states adopt laws about it each year. First responders in my area used to keep epi’s on them at all times, especially responders that cover areas of the Appalachian Trail, or other popular hiking/camping spots. Several allergic people have been stung miles off the beaten path only to find they forgot to pack their epi. 4 or 5 years ago 3 died during the summer. They were too far out for anyone to reach them in time. First responders are typically their best hope. They will usually beat the ambulance, but they were told they could no longer administer epi’s 2 or 3 years ago. By the time they reach the patient, be it on foot or 4 wheelers, most are in no shape to inject themselves. It’s often down to the wire.

    That is a horrible position to put people who volunteer to help save lives and the result could be far worse – deadly for those in need.

    I think my friend said they can instruct someone else (a family member or friend) to follow the directions, if that person has someone with them.

  37. Dingbat April 14, 2017 at 1:40 pm #

    ^^ IT’S STUPID!! STU-PID! More so when you consider that people in the school system are allowed to inject a student with an epi but trained medical first responders are not.

    On that note… I have no understanding or patience with all the rules and regulations about what kids can and can not have with them in school. I find it absurd enough that they are not allowed to keep their epi’s, inhalers or insulin on them, let alone snacks in case a diabetic or hypoglycemic child has issues with their blood sugar, but sunscreen? The most it would do is give someone a rash and that’s typically due to sensitive skin and/or eczema. I can not wear moisturizers or makeup with anything over SPF 15-25, but I still have to paint on SPF I’m a vampire when I’m on vacation or in the sun all day, and deal with it. It’s that or sun poisoning.

    I would not be surprised if some parent out there claimed their child was deathly allergic to the smell in an outdoor environment.

  38. Esther April 18, 2017 at 12:49 pm #

    Perhaps exposing children to sunburns is a giant medical experiment? In about 50 years scientist will compare skin cancer rates in areas with this “interesting” rule to those states where the use of sunscreen is mandatory at all open-air activities of children.