Kids Severely Sunburned at School Because They Didn’t Have “Prescription” for Sunscreen

Readers — As much as anything, this blog is dedicated to the idea that we MUST use our brains and compassion and not blindly follow orders that exist only to avoid liability or blame. So kftydabdek
take a look at what happened to these girls
at their school’s field day. (Warning: The pictures are painful!)

The girls were kept out in the sun and severely burned, to the point where the adults at the school were noticing and commenting. Later, the principal explained her…what’s it called in a war when you don’t stand up and fight for justice? …her that. Her blithe justification for why she didn’t do the right thing:

 Her response centered around the the school 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.


Folks, I am thinking of writing a book — a mini-one — on this whole issue. The issue of our safety fears becoming so ornate and far-fetched (“What if a child uses sunscreen inappropriately?”) that we not only lose all common sense, we lose our ability to think or even feel. We become stunted.

The principal didn’t frame it this way, but it was her decision to LET those girls burn. Sure, she was “just following orders” — the insurance company’s, perhaps, or the school district’s. But we’ve seen where just following orders can lead. – L.

Oh…does that thing burn?

, , , ,

164 Responses to Kids Severely Sunburned at School Because They Didn’t Have “Prescription” for Sunscreen

  1. In the Trenches June 21, 2012 at 10:39 pm #

    If you write it, I will read it. I once was a teacher/supervisor on a field trip, during which the bus we were all on caught fire. The admin was so afraid that the kids would run into traffic and get killed if we evacuated the bus that they insisted we all stay aboard, and they even forbade us to tell the kids what was going on, on the assumption they would panic. Keep in mind these were 17-year-olds. The kids DID panic, but only because they were deliberately being lied to and kept in the dark about something that they had no control over. This ‘what if’ thinking has got to go.

  2. Belle June 21, 2012 at 10:43 pm #

    The daycare my daughter attends requires us to sign a form giving them permission to apply not only an OTC sunscreen, but also OTC diaper rash creme. It is a litigious world we live in, I suppose.

  3. In the Trenches June 21, 2012 at 10:44 pm #

    By the way, the childism evident in many adults’ attitudes is appalling. Can you imagine if the same attitudes were still being applied to, say, women? Telling them that they are so weak and foolish that they can’t even handle putting on sunscreen? Letting them burn, and justifying it because it was ‘for their own good’, as they are so irrational that they can’t be trusted to do something properly? Sheesh.

  4. Sarah June 21, 2012 at 10:45 pm #

    I agree that it’s getting ridiculous in the school systems. Each student needs a book’s worth of paper for all the notes and permissions they need for their individual set of circumstances.

    However, allergies do exist, and if school staff went around applying sunscreen to everyone, someone would have an allergic reaction to it and then there’d be a whole other stink raised.

    The fact that even with a prescription, though, the kids can’t carry around their own sunscreen themselves is not sound, either. Why are such extreme measures taken? Why can’t the allowance of sunscreen be the norm (as long as the kids bring it themselves) and some can “opt out” if they know of allergies?

    I mean, wouldn’t that make more sense?

  5. Chris June 21, 2012 at 10:46 pm #

    I love the word “stunted” to describe this feeling, but I dislike the phrase “common sense.” It is too loaded, and often can lull people into the false beliefe that they are inherently right when presented with a counter intuitive situation. Thinking is the important thing. Why do we do what we do? Why were these rules created? Who do they benefit? Or, if you want things in musical form, here is some Jem. “They” My free range anthem.

  6. In the Trenches June 21, 2012 at 10:47 pm #

    Belle, I thought so too, until I looked into frivolous litigation. Some of it happens, I guess, but the ‘just so story’ of rampant litigation for all manner of everyday accidents doesn’t seem to fit the facts. I read one article that suggested that insurance companies deliberately spread that meme in order to justify higher premiums…don’t know if it’s true, but our PERCEPTION of the dangers of litigation seems to be as overblown as many of our other ‘danger senses’: i.e. completely out of control.

  7. Ewan (@the_ewan) June 21, 2012 at 10:48 pm #

    What I don’t get is why there seems to be no fear of liability for forcing children to stay out in the sun without proper protection, and getting them burned.

    Also, while it would normally be a bad thing, I can’t help but think that it’d be rather amusing if the affected family would sue over this….

  8. Rachel June 21, 2012 at 10:49 pm #

    Please write that book!

  9. Sarah June 21, 2012 at 10:49 pm #

    @Belle, it was the same at my son’s daycare. Even worse, though, they wouldn’t administer ANY medications, even with a prescription. So, if my son needed a med three times a day I was supposed to stop by in the middle of the day myself to give him a dose. They wouldn’t touch it. This included non-prescription Tylenol, even if there was a doctor’s note saying the child needed it. Talk about fear of litigation! Apparently that takes precedent over any actual concerns for the children.

  10. Belle June 21, 2012 at 10:56 pm #

    Interestingly, we also have to provide a doctor’s note for any food allergies, or they will not allow a menu substitution. For a child that is, according to her doctor, too young to give an allergy test to. Luckily, her doctor takes me at my word when I say, “she’s allergic to eggs.” I guess that requirement perhaps cuts down on parents who want their children on a gluten-free diet, for example, when there’s no reason for it. I can understand and accommodate their requests, but sometimes they seem rather cumbersome. I can’t even imagine if they required me to come back there several times a day to give my daughter her medicine when she needed it.

  11. Nicole June 21, 2012 at 11:00 pm #

    That’s crazy! I “get” that the policy is there because they could be sued for putting sunscreen on a kid who’s allergic, but these kids look plenty old enough to know if they’re allergic. And an actual Rx is needed instead of just a parent note? Ridulous!!

  12. Emily June 21, 2012 at 11:16 pm #

    I hate to say it, but there’s nothing new here. I remember volunteering at a YMCA day camp for kids aged 5-8 the summer of 1999 (so, I was fifteen), and the kids needed notes from their parents giving the counsellors permission to assist their kids with sunscreen. However, it was just a note from the child’s parent or guardian that was required, NOT the doctor, and the kids were allowed to put on their own sunscreen, it’s just that a lot of them couldn’t reach everywhere on their backs. As a result, a lot of kids got burned, and one little girl actually had some blistering happen–so, a second-degree burn. As a result, I tended to value common sense over bureaucracy, and I’d surreptitiously put sunscreen on any of the kids who looked like they were burning up. I got in trouble for this, and when I pointed out the second-degree burn incident, the director of the day camps (who had also been in charge of the Leader Corps program I’d participated in), retorted, “How did you KNOW it was a second-degree burn? You’re not a doctor!!!” Ironically, I’d learned that from taking First Aid classes at that YMCA, and I’d been volunteering in kids’ programs at the Y since I was twelve. Anyway, shortly after that summer, I quit volunteering, for a myriad of reasons.

    But, getting back to this story, I agree with Ewan–if the school was going to have such a restrictive sunscreen policy, they should have at least kept the un-sunscreened kids inside, to prevent burning. Also, on the comments list for the article, at least one or two people berated the parents for not getting the “sunscreen prescription” from the doctor….which costs $110. Now, a bottle of sunscreen costs about ten dollars, and if you have more than one kid enrolled at the same school, they could presumably share said sunscreen. That’d be money well spent, for a necessary precaution. However, not everyone can afford to spend $110 PER CHILD on a prescription for something that doesn’t even need to be prescribed. That doesn’t make them bad parents.

  13. Emily June 21, 2012 at 11:20 pm #

    P.S., I’ve never heard of a school banning hats outdoors. In fact, when I lived in Australia and worked for International House, the iHouse director’s older son (who was about six or seven at the time) told me that, at his school, sun hats were included in the kids’ uniforms, and REQUIRED on the playground during recess, at least during the sunnier months.

  14. Sarah June 21, 2012 at 11:26 pm #

    @Emily, some schools in my area (WA) have banned hats of any kind because of “gang-related” issues. Yes, this is even in elementary schools. They worry that kids will start wearing certain hats to show some sort of gang affiliation. It’s totally ridiculous. Some have even started banning hoodies, or at least aren’t allowing students to wear the hoods up.

  15. Jet June 21, 2012 at 11:33 pm #

    I suspect the problem with sunscreen isn’t a concern over possible allergic reactions (though that is a valid point, as I met a little girl just this week who is allergic to aloe vera, which is commonly found in sun screen).

    I imagine the REAL culprit here is the fact that some kids, as mentioned above, have difficult applying it properly to themselves, which means they might ask for help, which means an adult might actually have to *GASP* touch a child, which means PEDOPHILE! We can’t have adults, especially male adults, touching children. That’s E.V.I.L., therefore we must ban sunscreen to remove the chance they might be tempted. Problem solved!

    Either way, it completely boggles the mind that somehow allowing a child to be severely sunburned somehow becomes the less risky (in)action.

  16. Taradlion June 21, 2012 at 11:38 pm #

    I have kid allergic to sunscreen. I put it on camp forms and he puts on sunscreen at home or brings his own if he’ll need it reapplied. You know what, HE knows he’s allergic and tells teachers and counselors-has sunce he was 4 and we fugured it out. I had teacher email me to ask if he could hold hands with a partner wearing sunscreen (yes, it is not that severe), but the only reason she asked was because my second grader said, “I have sunscreen on from home, I’m allergic to se kinds”…although adults caring for children (and teachers etc) should be aware of allergies, kids also can manage if they are taught to do so.

  17. AngieT June 21, 2012 at 11:43 pm #

    How about the mother take a bit of responsibility? By the burns she sent at least one of the girls out in the sun in a tank top. While I agree that the sunscreen would have had to be reapplied by the time the kids went outside (and that the school is out of line for not allowing her to bring her own), I find it completely inexcusable that she wouldn’t send her kids to school in proper attire. She knows her daughter is sensitive to the sun. Send the kid in light cotton clothing that covers all of her skin. Not only would the kid be protecting her body but stay much cooler as the clothing would keep the sweat on her body to do it’s job. She also knew the school policy about sun screen (or she should have with her child’s illness). If you already are diagnosed with albinoism she wouldn’t have had to do anything but call in a request for a doctors note/script for OTC sunscreen. Most DR offices will provide the note without the office visit charge.

    So really we have two issues one a ridiculous school policy that is to protect the school and not the children and a parent who wants to blame everyone else but take responsibility for her own choices. The second I believe is what leads to the first and it is a very nasty cycle.

  18. Nanci June 21, 2012 at 11:44 pm #

    Having had melanoma 10 years ago I would be furious if my kids came home like this! How educated people can be so clueless is beyond me! Luckily this craziness is not everywhere, though I do fear it will spread. My kids school (public school) has field day every year. They ask the parents to send sunscreen with their child for the child to apply themselves. The kids are always kind and share with other kids who didn’t bring any. The teachers bring some as well and spray the kids who look like they may need more. No forms to fill out or prescriptions to get 🙂

  19. Mike June 21, 2012 at 11:49 pm #

    I’m a bit confused by the story – was she expecting that the school was going to provide sunscreen?

    If she sent the kids to school without sunscreen and it got sunny, I don’t see that its the school’s job to provide sunscreen.

    If the kids were somehow prevented from applying their own sunscreen, then I’m more on board with the mother.

  20. JudyB June 21, 2012 at 11:50 pm #

    Just a question–did the parents not know it was “field day”??Why didn’t they apply some at home before the kids left? and short sleeves instead of tanks? That would have helped at least some. I DO agree that it’s crazy that the school would not apply some, or remove the burning kids from the sun, but don’t blame them entirely.

  21. wwax June 21, 2012 at 11:55 pm #

    Ok so they were freaking out about sunscreen for fear of litigation or, whatever. . . . don’t understand it but what confuses me even more is what the heck stopped a teacher from going my you are getting sunburned, go sit in some shade, Here is a hat, here’s a jacket, put on a t-shirt. Instead of just letting those kids burn.

    As a side note – my niece and nephew in Australia go to a school where the kids aren’t allowed out in summer for lunch without a hat on and the schools have big pump bottles of sunscreen for the kids to use (unless allergic) as well as shaded eating areas.

  22. Cari June 21, 2012 at 11:59 pm #

    My boys’ school had a field day, they were told to bring sunscreen from home. I sent one can and they knew to share. No notes were needed. Sounds like that school has over-reacted requiring scripts for sunscreen.

  23. Goog June 22, 2012 at 12:01 am #

    Sorry to be in the minority, but this is the mother’s fault, NOT the school’s. She did NOT provide sunscreen, she did NOT apply sunscreen to her children – who she says have a problem with the sun and/or “fair skin” – on a day she KNEW they would be in the sun. She is taking zero responsibility! AFTER THE FACT she is claiming that her kids wouldn’t have been allowed to apply sunscreen. Does that seem silly? Sure. But it has NOTHING to do with her NOT seeing to her kids’ needs BEFORE this happened. She’s simply using it to fuel her own anger.

  24. LRH June 22, 2012 at 12:02 am #

    AngieT The correct spelling is its, not it’s. The clothing is not doing “it is” job (and that’s what it’s stands for). I’m sorry, I know people hate the “grammar police” (and I can do my own typos if I’m not careful) but that common mistake always irks me, I can’t resist correcting it. I do so out of clarification, not being a snob. Anyway.

    Seriously though (you too JudyB, you’re blaming the parents here? Heck, I would’ve sent a child of mine out with a tanktop. I know some say that covering up helps if you have skin sensitivities, but then again, I guarantee you that had the parent sent the child with that sort of clothing, someone (probably someone like you) would’ve been griping “look at that poor child, it’s 90 degrees outside & her stupid mother made her wear a long-sleeved shirt!” That is the very sort of thing free-range also talks about–people blaming parents for simple oversights that are human in nature or judging a decision you know nothing about, because–guess what, you’re not the parent.

    The attitude you two expressed reminds me of this woman I met once who berated me for not having mosquito netting around the stroller of my 1-week old infant child. She gave her opinion, I THANKED her for it and said “it would’ve been nice for the hospital to tell me those sorts of things in their check-out guides etc” & she, like a total snab, sneered “well that’s just common sense.” Yeah, sure Dragon Lady. Now go home and fire up the thermal engines so you can nag and gripe at your husband that way–I ain’t your husband and I don’t have to put up with it.

    To me, the parent made, at WORST, an oversight–the school, on the other hand, made a purposeful stupid decision based on stupid-freaking insurance and suing concerns. They had sunscreen on-hand (if I read the story properly) & had a chance to easily fix the problem, it wasn’t something that was a case of being human & forgetting, it was a deliberate DECISION done ON PURPOSE and for the wrong reasons–blindly “just doing as I was told” and being the whore of the insurance companies and “thinking like lawyers” as Lenore so eloquently puts it.

    This is one instance where I would NOT back the school over my kids (as I would tend to do in many behavioral cases, a la John Rosemond) and would stand up for my kids over them.

    And I sure as heck wouldn’t act like the parents are just SO neglectful for a simple human oversight that in no way compares to a deliberate stupid decision done on purpose with plenty of chances to do better.


  25. LRH June 22, 2012 at 12:04 am #

    Goog You’re wrong. Nice to see that the “blame the parents club” is still busy recruiting new suckers on a daily basis.


  26. Jen Connelly June 22, 2012 at 12:25 am #

    My kids had field day last week. Luckily this year it wasn’t super hot. Unfortunately, they have a no sunscreen policy at their school. We were told to apply sunscreen before the kids left for school.

    Honestly, I don’t see how that would help considering my kids leave for school at 7:20am and 8am. And their time outside was in the afternoon. By then the sunscreen has worn off. My kids ended up not putting any on (they are responsible for their own sunscreen). If we lived somewhere where it was super hot I would have insisted on it but it was only in the 60s I think.

    These policies are just asinine. My 12yo had a sore throat a couple weeks ago and was using cough drops to sooth it. Of course, when she went to school she wasn’t allowed to take any because of idiotic school policies about medication. So every day she’d take some Motrin or Tylenol before school and by the afternoon she was miserable because it would wear off and she couldn’t take more. I was tempted to tell her to take some and sneak it in between classes (they are chewables) but my luck she’d get caught and I’d get in trouble for telling her to ignore the “very important” rules.

  27. Spazztastic June 22, 2012 at 12:29 am #

    You realize that the “solution” to this problem will be to not let the kids outside, right?

  28. LRH June 22, 2012 at 12:32 am #

    Jen Connelly Exactly. The sunscreen would’ve worn off by the afternoon, and many schools don’t allow sunscreen because, oh my God, they might apply to that 1 in 20 child who has an allergic reaction & be held liable for not knowing. But of course the “it’s the parent’s fault” people of the world & the creators of such asinine policies can’t see past their own sun-burned nose. And of course they subscribe to the whole “it’s the parents’ responsibility” diatribe to such an extreme it doesn’t occur to them that some things AREN’T a parents’ responsibility. If you’re the caretaker of the child, it’s YOURS, especially once the parent has equipped the child with what they reasonably could need for the occasion & made you aware of it. Do your [ducking] job.

    I can honestly say I don’t know what I’m going to do if & when my kids, who are 3 & 5 now, start running into this sort of thing. I’m one that is super big on breaking rules I don’t agree with–if you don’t want me breaking rules, then don’t make stupid ones. I’m one to think I would, in the case you mentioned, not only tell the child to “sneak” it, but even TELL the teacher “yeah, I told her to do it, and I’m going to CONTINUE to until you get your head out of your anus” if it gets discovered.


  29. AngieT June 22, 2012 at 12:44 am #

    LRH Thank you for the wonderfully condescending reminder of its versus it’s, if that is the least of the grammar error’s I have made in that previous post, then I am doing fairly well today.

    Now if your kid had a serious allergy to mosquito’s then yes the lady berating you for not netting your stroller would have been correct assertion.Was that lady that scolded you out of line? Yes, you were not presenting yourself in a public forum for discourse of your actions.
    The parent in this case is presenting herself as such. The child in this case does have a medical condition that requires action to protect her from the sun. Do you understand what Albinism is? The child does not produce melanin well enough to protect herself. Thus the child burns to the point of blisters. The blisters then open the child up for not only pain, possible scarring, sever infection, but also a higher chance of cancer. This is not a case of well she is just fair skinned and gets a little red. This is a diagnosed condition. The school does not just pop a field day on the parents. It is planned out and announced in advance. The policy on sunscreen be posted in the school handbook. Parents need to make plans. Fact is that there were REASONABLE things that the parent in this case could have done to protect her child. Am I saying the parent was a bad parent? NO. Was I saying the school behaved in a reasonable manner? NO, but the school wasn’t acting outside of expected behavior. She knew the school would not provide sunscreen. She knew her child was unable to wear a hat (completely ridiculous but posted). She could have sent a letter to school with the child to remind them of her child’s needs. She could have had a talk reminding her girls that they need to stick to shade when possible and if they start feeling off they need to tell (not ask) a teacher to let them inside. Was I pointing out that instead of acknowledging that she had a part to play in this and should have done more? Yes. There are plenty of clothing options that would cover her skin properly and kept her cooler than wearing a tank top. I don’t expect anything but an education out of my child’s school because there are too many students and I know my child best. I do expect the school to protect my child from general harm, but there is a level that I know I need to make certain my child is able to take care of his own needs. Especially when his is in a situation where the teacher cannot necessarily give him undivided attention. I expect a bit more care out of my other child’s daycare as they see her at a more intimate level and she needs a little more care.

    Then again this is totally after the fact and we are ALL playing the armchair game. DO you know for certain she did everything reasonably possible to protect her daughter from sever burns? No. DO I? No. All any of us are going off of is a half a page description of her version of events and her outrage. I have stated my opinion of it and so have you.

  30. Sarah June 22, 2012 at 12:48 am #

    @LRH, I can actually appreciate what you’re saying, but I think your attitude toward teachers is a little too harsh. It’s often not the teachers who are instituting policies, after all.

    And not all teachers are stupid. Not all teachers don’t do their [ducking] jobs. A negative attitude toward teachers does not help this situation at all. So many parents think they can drop their kids off at school and have zero responsibility for them until the bell rings at the end of the day. The truth is the responsibility lies with both parties. Parents and schools need to work together for the sake of the kids.

    Parents blaming schools and schools blaming parents does no one any good. Yes, some policies are stupid, but being so blaming and venomous about it is not constructive.

  31. Jet June 22, 2012 at 12:55 am #

    @AngieT: If you click through the link, you’ll see the mother made the decision not to apply sunscreen because it was raining that morning. She might have reasonably assumed they weren’t going to have Field Day in the rain. She also noted, as others have above, that an application of sunscreen prior to school would have worn off by noon irregardless.

    Also, though it’s not explicitly mentioned in her posting, based on appearance I believe the child in the tank top is NOT the child with albinism. I think the little girl with the burnt face is. It seemed to me she was showing how badly both children burned.

  32. Hugo S. Cunningham June 22, 2012 at 1:01 am #

    In general, I am leery of overambitious prosecutors. In this case, however, a charge of “felony child abuse” against the school officials responsible might be the first step needed to clear away moral cobwebs.

  33. LRH June 22, 2012 at 1:06 am #

    Yes AngieT you have stated your opinion. And you couldn’t be more wrong in it. And your extended knowledge of the condition, impressive though it may be, doesn’t change this at all.

    What are your suggesting of parents is ridiculous. When I drop my kid off somewhere to a caretaker, I am fine with giving the caretakers reasonable tools that are special & particular to them, furnishing the clothes & paying for the food as well, but come one–how “special” is sunscreen? Has the school never heard of Walgreens? Beyond me furnishing the “special” things and educating them about my child’s medical nuances, clothing them and paying for their food etc, it is on THEM to take care of their needs. THEM, not me–THEM.

    If I were taking care of someone’s child, I would apply sunscreen if it was needed. If the policies said I couldn’t–screw them. I have a child with a need for it, I’m doing it–you can fire me all you want while kissing the rear posteriors of the insurance companies & lawyers with your lips when you’re not using your lips to scold parents who aren’t perfect or, oh my goodness, expect you to do your [ducking] JOB, but I’m putting on the sunscreen.

    The rest of you can let the child burn, or do like the nurse who took a child’s inhaler away because, oh my God, the parent forgot to sign the permission form saying it was okay. Gee, the name on the box matching his didn’t give you a clue? And what a God-awful parent, they know about their kids’ asthma & were negligent (not human) enough to fail (not overlook, forget) to sign the form they should KNOW is required?

    I don’t spend my time equating myself with every single nuance of a school’s rules, nor should I be expected to. The basics, the essentials, the fundamentals–sure. Ignorance isn’t bliss. That said, I sure as heck don’t appreciate the suggestion that I have to practically know every article/subsection/paragraph by heart or else a child getting sunburned unnecessarily is all MY fault.

    All the things you said the parent could’ve remind the school of–if the school is so dumb as to have to need to have all of THAT explained to them, when it ought to be as obvious as the skin-burned nose on their face, then they’re in the wrong business.

    To advocate that this is the parents fault–well, let’s just say I’m glad Lenore is running this blog & not you. Maybe you & the others need to start a “” site or something and have it. There’s certainly enough of you with this twisted sense of community to have a good go of it.

    Sarah I am not blanket blaming all teachers. Please, enough of this. Every teacher I know is SO ultra-sensitive to this. Enough already. This is NOT the same thing as Junior writing on the walls & the parent not backing up the teacher, because if that were the case, believe me, I couldn’t sympathize with you more, I’m on your side totally and that child of mine is in trouble when they get home.

    But enough of this behind “it’s the policy.” That’s the approach of a coward whose only concern is saving their anus. I DON’T CARE what the policy is, and neither should the teacher, when it’s something silly as this. Quit being a mind-numb robot and use some brains for goodness sake. If the policy is wrong, advocate for the kids and throw a fit about it, in the proper/professional tone. Your hands aren’t tied, you might be COMPELLED by your sense of not wanting to lose your job & that’s understandable, but “calling it your job doesn’t make it right” to quote a famous singer in a famous song.


  34. Chihiro June 22, 2012 at 1:10 am #

    This reminds me of a ‘chemical spill’ my school had a couple months back. Keep in mind this is a high school, with around 800 14-18 year olds walking the halls.
    We were told to evacuate because of a ‘chemical spill’ in one of the science labs a bit before noon. Now, there were some actual dangerous chemicals in some of the rooms, so we evacuated without complaint. Soon, we found out what the ‘chemical spill’ was: mercury. Someone had dropped an old thermometer made of mercury, so the entire school had to be evacuated.
    We had to sit out on the football field for four hours. There were no clouds to block the sun, it was actually fairly chilly out, and about half the school hadn’t had a chance to eat lunch. No one was allowed to leave to stadium, even to grab a sweatshirt that was sitting ten feet away in their car.
    They had to test everyone who had been inside that room that day for traces of mercury-two hours later, they all came up negative. I got a mild sunburn from that day, which I’m pretty sure was a bigger cancer risk than a bit of mercury.
    Also, since I nearly failed chemistry, I asked my homeroom teacher (who happened to be a science teacher) if the mercury was really that bad for us. He said no, mercury is usually only harmful if ingested. So my entire school was kept out on a lawn freezing our hungry butts off and getting sunburned not only for two hours of our school day, but two hours AFTER school had ended, to ensure no one was licking the mercury off the floor.

  35. squishymama June 22, 2012 at 1:12 am #

    My girls both attend a summer camp where there are regular beach days (we near Chicago). We are instructed to send sunscreen and are notified at the beginning of each summer that the teenage counselors, in the case of the older girl, or the teacher’s aides, in the case of the younger, will be helping them apply it. Thankfully, because of their mixed genes, they don’t really need it, but I’m glad that the program just does the right thing and does not turn what should be just a routine thing into a federal case.

  36. Ben June 22, 2012 at 1:28 am #

    Why are they so scared to get sued for applying sunscreen? If the kid happens to have an allergy, it is them and their parents who are supposed to inform the school. Barring that, it is the school’s responsibility to keep the kids out of harm’s way. Applying sunscreen to fair-skinned kids seems the logical thing to do to me.

    Sue their ass off and prove that not applying sunscreen is more of a liability than not doing it.

  37. AngieT June 22, 2012 at 1:30 am #

    LRH – I am not blaming the parent and you need to get off your holier than thou high horse. Should the policies be different? Should the teachers have used some common sense in this case? Yes without a doubt so how about you go do something about it. Is blaming the school entirely for something so scripted out that the parent should have no doubt to the outcome right? No because the reality of it is if a company/corp or government entity has such rules common sense gets pushed out the window. To see the world otherwise is fantasy. I would rather live with my eyes open rather than raging over and over about how it “should” be. Maybe you could join a school board with others that share your views and make a change.

    You state: “I don’t spend my time equating myself with every single nuance of a school’s rules, nor should I be expected to.” You definitely should be if your child has allergies or sensitivities that might be triggered by something that goes on at school. That is why the rules are their. Not to trigger your rage at the stupidity of them but to give you guidelines for expected outcomes. To not know a schools policy on OTC and other “medication” is willful ignorance. To suggest that your school should be able to take care of your child the same way you are when there are 28 – 35 students per single teacher is daydreaming. Most teachers are trying to do the best they can but are outnumbered and lack resources.

    If you have the time I would suggest seeing what the requirements are for substitute teaching in your area are. Give it a try and see how you do. Don’t just go in as a teacher aid that is a totally different ball game.

  38. Selby June 22, 2012 at 1:31 am #

    How long before schools ban girls from carrying tampons in their purse because of the risk of TSS?

    No, I am not even close to kidding….

  39. Jaimie June 22, 2012 at 1:43 am #

    We had a similar incident at my son’s school, except the activity was a Talent Show. I (and other parents) assumed it would be held in the gym. Instead it was held outdoors during a sunny afternoon in Southern California. Although our school requires forms to be allowed to have sunscreen at school, during an outside field trip they were told to bring sunscreen – no special forms required!
    My son is also fair and always uses sunscreen and wears a hat outdoors. Not just to avoid the pain of a sunburn but to prevent skin cancer. My husband has had numerous basal cell carcinomas removed. My father-in-law has had both basal cell and squamous cell cancers removed, one of which required a skin graft. And my father is currently battling metastatic melanoma, so my son has this on both sides of the family.
    The Skin Cancer Foundation states that “one or more blistering sunburns in childhood or adolescence more than double a person’s chances of developing melanoma later in life” and “a person’s risk for melanoma doubles if he or she has had more than five sunburns at any age” (
    It infuriates me that the school would rather put the entire school body at a real, documented increased risk for future, potentially deadly melanoma skin cancer than take an infinitely small chance that a kid *might* have an allergy they don’t know about. I do understand that some kids can have allergies to sunscreen. The kids I know with allergies are well educated about what to avoid, to communicate with others about allergies and avoid anything they aren’t sure of. In these situations I believe the best course of action is for adults to respect kids who say they have an allergy. Allowing kids to participate in protecting themselves helps everyone!

    ps. Nanci – so glad to hear you are a 10 year survivor! WOOO!!!

  40. SKL June 22, 2012 at 1:46 am #

    OK, am I the only person who wonders why the teacher didn’t have the kids stand in the shade if they didn’t have suncreen and obviously needed it?

    How is it that the human species made it through millions of years without sunscreen?

    So if they were near a body of water and only “approved life vests” were allowed, would they not at least pluck out the kids who appeared to be drowning?

    My kids are supposed to bring have a paper filled out for the school to apply sunscreen. I do not do this because my kids have dark skin and very rarely need sunscreen. And I don’t want it applied when they don’t need it. However, there has to be some common sense employed. Sunscreen or not, you don’t send little light-skinned kids out to bake in the sun with no opportunity to run into the shade. Especially nowadays when so many kids get so little time to get acclimated to the sun’s rays.

  41. LRH June 22, 2012 at 1:50 am #

    AngieT I stand by what I say, I’m right about it. The only “holier than thou” ones are the ones absolving the school of any responsibility. (Apparently this is not you, so if I stand corrected a little bit there, no problem.) I could care less what the requirements for being a teacher are or what nonsense says to the school board they should have such rules in place. I don’t know what the requirements are for being a police officer, but if one mistreats me or one of my family, I’m calling them on it. I don’t need to sit on the board or learn every crook & cranny of the “Guide to Being a Cop” to know police abuse when I see it. The same applies here.

    Obviously one teacher to 35 kids is not as good as 1 parent to 3 of their own kids, obviously, but come on–you need some sort of special certification to say that sunscreen should be applied to non-allergic kids? If we’re at that point, we need to get away from that point. Now.

    Besides that, part of the problem, as I see it, is the onus is put on “normal” people (for lack of a better phrase) to express that they’re not “special” (that is, having a special diagnosis or allergy of some sort). vs the ones who are special being expected to clarify that. It’s in a lot of places–if you go somewhere and ask for “tea,” 95% of people want it sweet, but rather than the 5% being told they need to ask for UN-sweetened tea, the cashier has to wait precious seconds asking every single person if they want it sweet or not. The standard should be: the server makes it sweet if not told otherwise, and if you’re one of the 5% who wants unsweetened, the faults lies with YOU for not expressly stating so. It’s NOT with the server for failing to ask if you were one of the 5%.

    At places of work I’ve seen, at office parties, I’ve seen them have nothing but Diet soda and no “regular” soda, because of the CHANCE 1 person in the office drinks diet. The majority rest of us who drink regular–tough.

    Same here–most kids do fine with sunscreen, but rather than the parent of a special needs child having to clarify this, instead, we put sunscreen on NOBODY and it’s the fault of the other parents for not knowing about this stupid perspective on the school’s part and working around it.

    Does this sound like “worst first thinking?” It does to me.

    And how CAN you work around it if schools don’t even allow kids to put sunscreen on themselves? That is so beyond stupid, and no–I DO NOT need to apply for substitute teacher or sit on the school board to know that’s silly.


  42. Kathy V June 22, 2012 at 1:59 am #

    I am in awe of this. I can’t believe someone could stand back and let these children burn like this…regardless of the consequences. At the very least, someone should have called a parent to come pick them up since it wasn’t an “academic” day. Amazing…just amazing…

  43. squishymama June 22, 2012 at 2:01 am #

    I had to go back and read the mom’s post again, because something kept bugging me.

    She says that the girl has a “documented form of Albinism and associated 504 plan” which would include any medication that the child might need. So the child should have already had sunscreen at school for just this type of event (field day) and been able to access it at the nurse’s office.

    When asked about what happened, the principal’s “response centered around the school inability to administer what they considered a prescription/medication (sunscreen) for liability reasons” Well, isn’t filling out the 504 plan supposed to override this? Shouldn’t all of her teacher’s been informed of her condition and what to do about it?

    So unless the mom did not supply the school with sunscreen, the school does seem to be at fault here.

    Oh, and the definition of a 504 plan that I found, just so we’re all clear about what’s being discussed:

    As defined by federal law: “An individual with a disability means any person who: (i) has a mental or physical impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity; (ii) has a record of such an impairment; or (iii) is regarded as having such an impairment” [34 C.F.R. §104.3(j)(1)].

  44. AngieT June 22, 2012 at 2:13 am #

    If you are not willing to sit on the school board or attend meetings then how is change ever going to happen. It is all fine and dandy to sit here and complain about how there is a lack of common sense going on here but what good does that do. This is the world we live in. The only way to make it change is to not tell others how much they are suckers and not welcome because of their opinions, but to go to the people in power and tell them this is wrong. All we have here (and generally all there ever is on any blog) is a single paragraph or a page about some “outrage” that happens. Then a mass of people assert how stupid X or Y was. We assign the blame and if everyone is in consensus the forum dies down. Then the next outrage occurs and the cycle repeats. If you have such a problem why not write the school. Join your local school board or at the very least go to the meetings. Talk on a regular basis with your teachers and the principal. Especially if there is something with your child that needs to be taken care of and addressed. Worse first thinking is a handicap but so is sitting back and waiting for something stupid to happen before you become enraged. I know I don’t have time and most of you don’t either but there are things that can be done to keep communication open.

    “–I DO NOT need to apply for substitute teacher or sit on the school board to know that’s silly.” Sure we can all agree that it is silly but the point was to go out and make a difference rather than preaching to the choir.

  45. Emily June 22, 2012 at 2:29 am #

    @Sarah–This was an Australian public elementary school, and in most states in Australia (all except Canberra, if I remember correctly), kids wear uniforms in public schools, from kindergarten through grade twelve. This particular elementary school had wide-brimmed sun hats (the same style as a Tilley hat, but with a slightly wider brim) included in their uniforms. So, since all the kids wore them (or, at least, they did if they wanted to be allowed outside for play time), they weren’t considered to be “gang related.”

  46. Heila June 22, 2012 at 2:35 am #

    At my daughter’s preschool each kid had to bring a container of sunscreen at the start of the school year, and whenever they went out to play all the kids had to line up at the door and by sunscreened out of whatever container the teacher had handy. The only exception to this was if you made it clear that your child was only to use a specific brand or type.

    At the school where she went for grade 1 – 3, sports days (which I assume is called field days in the US), involved copious sunscreen applied by the kids themselves and/or parents who came to watch, as well as shade provided for teams cheering on their runners, and for runners waiting their turn.

    I will, and do, cover any child under my supervision when I take them outside on a day when they are likely to burn. I’m so glad that South Africans are not so paranoid yet.

  47. Heila June 22, 2012 at 2:37 am #

    Sorry the last sentence was meant to read “cover any child under my supervision with sunscreen”…

  48. Emily June 22, 2012 at 2:42 am #

    @LRH–About the inhaler incident, I believe that the parents did sign the form and send it in with their son, who in turn handed it into the school nurse, but then the nurse lost it.

  49. Eric B. June 22, 2012 at 2:43 am #

    That is a pretty crazy story. People really need to find the appropriate balance between protecting the kids and the liability issues that seem to scare kids so much.

    I’m really enjoying checking out your blog. So much good stuff here. Thanks for sharing!

  50. Kacey Bollrud June 22, 2012 at 3:27 am #

    The simple solution would have been to take the girls inside and call their mother. If you read the mother’s blog post, she didn’t apply sunscreen in the morning because it was raining. By the time the sun came out, it would have been time to reapply sunscreen anyway. It is sadly commonplace to not allow for even over the counter products to be used by students or supplied by teachers/coaches. But, not taking these girls to a shaded area and/or calling their mother is reprehensible.

  51. Michelle June 22, 2012 at 3:31 am #

    I have to agree with LRH — though, as usual, he’s being combative and argumentative in his phrasing. (BTW, LRH, in the comment where you corrected Angie’s grammar, you missed a parenthesis. McKean’s law, dude.)

    Perhaps the mother should have applied sunscreen to her daughters before school, even though it would likely have worn off and not made any difference. Perhaps she should have made the one daughter wear a short-sleeved top instead of a tank-top, though it would not have helped anything but her shoulders. Perhaps she should have shelled out $110 per child for a completely ridiculous prescription for a non-prescription item. Heck, perhaps she should have driven up to the school, attended field day, and repeatedly applied sunscreen to her daughters herself. I have a daughter who burns very easily, and I might have done any or all of these things.

    However, her oversights and failures completely and utterly pale in the face of the actions of teachers who stood there and *watched* these two little girls blister and burn, commented on how burned they were getting, and consciously chose to do nothing. Consciously chose to let them burn. They could have simply taken the girls inside without violating their sunscreen policy, but they chose not to. That is flat out child abuse, plain and simple, no hyperbole.

  52. RobynHeud June 22, 2012 at 3:34 am #

    Just a quick question about the daycare policies. If you’re paying these people to care for your child in your absence, wouldn’t that naturally include doing things for them that you do, such as applying sunscreen before going outside, or diaper cream if they develop a rash, or administering medications as dictated by the parents? If we expect our baby-sitters and family members who watch our children to do those things, why on earth are the people who get paid to regularly care for our children feel they are exempt from this aspect of child care? Child care is not simply giving them toys and food and changing their diapers when they need it, it is about being in tune with their needs and attending to them as necessary. If i had a day care provider that refused to do for my son the things I, as his mother, had determined were necessary for his health and well-being, I would fire them.

  53. K June 22, 2012 at 3:40 am #

    At my kids’ daycare (when they were younger)… the teachers refused to apply sunscreen. Even spray, or any other, even with a doctor’s note. This was because… it would be too time intensive to have to cover everyone, and what if we missed part of someone. So, my little fair-skinned boys would get sunscreen at 7:30 am that was supposed to last until 5:30 pm – through water play, sweaty outdoor play, naptime, etc.

    I needed a doctor’s note also for diaper cream. And, when someone retracted my son’s foreskin prematurely, I needed a doctor’s note for antibiotic, pain-relieving medication for that.

    I needed a doctor’s note to require my kid to eat vegetables before
    bread. They would not accommodate my requests to stop it with the froot loops/pastry/teddygraham’s and stick to (slightly) less disgusting fare.

    Vegetarians need not apply, they won’t honor your dietary preferences without a doctor’s note.

    Common sense need not apply in today’s daycare world. Just give them some ketchup and require doctor’s notes for any exceptions.

    Truth be told – that is the best daycare in our area… great program, active kids, cool activities. Just crap for food and zippo for logic.

  54. Moldoon June 22, 2012 at 3:47 am #

    The daycare thing is annoying, to be sure. Mine (or more likely, my state) doesn’t require a doctor’s note or Rx for OTC items, but they do require us to sign a form for diaper cream, Tylenol, sunscreen, etc.

    Strangely, that doesn’t seem to apply to other parenting decisions – like transitioning my 12 month old from 2 naps to 1, which my provider tried to do recently without discussing it with us first.

  55. Belle June 22, 2012 at 3:55 am #

    @RobynHeud – Given the amount we pay to send the kiddo to daycare, you’d think they’d cater to parents’ every whim! 🙂 However, when you break down the weekly bill to an hourly rate, we are really only paying less than $4/hour. Combine that with the fact that probably half the staff are part time only, and I’m sure even the full-time employees are not all that well paid. That being said, the staff is, for the most part, fantastic and interact incredibly well with our daughter. I assume some of the requirements for signed waivers for things like sunscreen are due to state regulations and oversight. The only way to get around that is to find in-home daycare, but even those are subject to state regs (I assume).

    @K – We’ve been very lucky in that our daycare adheres to a particular set of dietary needs to set their monthly menu. We also have to provide a doctor’s note for any variance from the menu – food allergies only, not preferences.

  56. SKL June 22, 2012 at 4:05 am #

    Does anyone remember the news story where the mom was accused (maybe convicted) of child abuse because her tot got a sunburn while at the county fair?

    Apparently it’s abuse if the parent is around and it’s “procedure” if it happens at school.

  57. LRH June 22, 2012 at 4:08 am #

    Michelle “Ha ha” on the McKean’s Law thing. I had to look that up, and it was what I figured it was. In fact I said to myself “$10 says I point out the incorrect usage of it’s only to then have a few typos myself.” I knew it was going to probably happen.

    The thing is, to me, depending on your tone (and my tone may have been out-of-line, I will admit), a person SHOULD be able to correct grammar, especially if it’s improper usage and spelling vs a typo. People get upset about it, but to me it’s no different than when, for instance, I used to live in Tucson Arizona & my out-of-state visiting mother was always mispronouncing certain street names. A certain street spelled “AJO Way” was pronounced “ah-hoe” not “A-Joe” way. My out-of-town mother, not knowing the Spanish heritage, mispronounced it, I corrected it.

    The “it’s” thing is something I see all the time, and I’m just trying to clarify what the correct usage is. I don’t mean to be holier-than-thou, but I’ve always taken pride in my spelling, I think it’s important. We may not be filling out job applications or typing up resumés here (notice I did the é vs a “normal” e for resumé, I wouldn’t expect anyone to be able to do all THAT, what person knows you can type é by typing ALT 0233?) but I have a pet-peeve about sloppy typing and grammar etc being accepted because “it’s not formal writing.” To me, ANYTHING done with a computer keyboard, I tend to treat it as formal writing. I save the “jive talk” for when I’m mingling with people acting silly while drinking Pepsi and belching the chorus of “Carry On My Wayward Son” (ha ha).

    But yes, I had that coming to me, ha ha.

    K I agree 100%. That has been my main point, why shouldn’t the SCHOOL be applying the sunscreen? Why put so much expectations on the parents, when they’re at work and these are supposed to be the people watching & educating our kids in our place? Also Belle, as far as home daycare having state-run requirements–not always. For awhile, our 3 year old son, when he was 1-1½, was watched by a young lady in her home, we paid her $50 a week. There were NO state inspections, no “official” things about it at all. It was no different than if I went to a garage sale and paid $10 for a lamp. She didn’t have to answer for that pond without a fence around it (she kept him well away), corners on the edges of furniture, or what she fed him, or administering medication–it was TOTALLY between us and this person, NOBODY else. It was GREAT.


  58. LRH June 22, 2012 at 4:09 am #

    Oops, sorry, forgot to turn off the bold-faced feature. Go ahead Michelle, I asked for it (ha ha).

  59. Christina June 22, 2012 at 4:11 am #

    @ In The Trenches – sadly, in this day and age these attitudes are still being applied to women as well:

  60. Yan Seiner June 22, 2012 at 4:11 am #

    To insert a different perspective:

    1. The school might be prohibited by state or local statute to apply any cream at all as they are not trained medical personnel. This is in fact the case in most states. Even though I am a certified first responder, I cannot administer any drugs, and that includes aspirin, even aspirin that the person in my care might provide me.

    2. The school personnel might be prohibited from rubbing or massaging (or any laying on of hands) unless they are clergy, licensed massage therapists, or professional team coaches doing a sports massage. (this is the case in my state).

    3. The school district liability program might prohibit touching of children except in very limited circumstances; and rubbing “unreachable parts” of skin could be in violation of the policy. No teacher is willing to give up their license for registration on the sex offender registry.

    So before everyone gallops off to blame the teachers or the principal, their hands might well be tied by various laws and policies. The teachers might well be the victims in this case as well, forced to administer a non-sensical policy at the threat of losing their jobs or worse.

  61. Moldoon June 22, 2012 at 4:24 am #

    @ Yan: “The school personnel might be prohibited from rubbing or massaging (or any laying on of hands) unless they are clergy, licensed massage therapists, or professional team coaches doing a sports massage.”

    Given clergy abuse of children and the Sandusky case, two of the three categories of approved personnel seems a little misguided…

  62. Yan Seiner June 22, 2012 at 4:26 am #

    @Moldoon: I am paraphrasing state statute here. No reason why it should make sense – or reflect reality. Unfortunately this is what our “think of the children” nonsense has given rise to.

  63. Uly June 22, 2012 at 4:28 am #

    While LRH might’ve been more tactful, I gotta say, if I made a grievous error that made me look foolish I’d want somebody to tell me. It’s like going out in public with toilet paper stuck to your shoe.

    Would you really rather wallow in your own ignorance?

    On that note, plurals don’t take apostrophes.

  64. Moldoon June 22, 2012 at 4:30 am #

    @ Yan: I know, my comment was mostly tongue-in-cheek.

  65. Michelle June 22, 2012 at 4:33 am #

    LRH, I disagree that this is the right forum for correcting grammar. It’s fine in casual conversation, even helpful and polite if the tone is, but in the context of an informal debate or serious discussion such as this, it’s a red herring — detracting from the discussion we are all trying to have. As it is now.

    Secondly, if you truly consider anything written at a computer keyboard to be “formal” conversation, then you are not only making many more errors than I thought (so far you have been writing, not formally, but quite colloquially), but you are also at odds with the vast history of human written communication (assuming you consider the pre-computer printed word comparable). I am immensely grateful that the vast majority of mankind’s greatest authors have not favored your penchant for confining “jive” talk to silly spoken conversations with silly people, but instead have continually recorded slang for posterity, creating the rich and interesting (though inelegant, I admit) language that English is today.

  66. Christy Rachelle Ford June 22, 2012 at 4:36 am #

    Schools should realize, sunburns are no joke. I once had sun BLISTERS all over my shoulders,upper arms and neckline. Sunblock is a necessity.

  67. Christy Rachelle Ford June 22, 2012 at 4:38 am #

    I remember now, for field day at the schools I attended, we were always told: BRING SUNBLOCK. It was a no-brainer. It’s possible even to get a sunburn on a cloudy day if you’re outside long enough. I know, it happened to me.

  68. Christy Rachelle Ford June 22, 2012 at 4:46 am #

    One more comment: Hats aren’t allowed for field day either? Wow. That was always the exception to the “no-hats” rule when I was growing up.

  69. Lollipoplover June 22, 2012 at 4:46 am #

    My kids had field day two weeks ago and the reminders came out daily for weeks.
    “Sunscreen your kids before school, send in plenty of water and mark their water bottles.”
    I did all this and also sent each with a sunscreen stick to reapply (especially their faces). I know it’s against the “rules” but sunscreen is not effective for 8 hours with one application. So I trust my kids to do the job discreetly (in the bathroom) and they did.

    I do get why all of these policies were put in place.
    But I hate the beaurocracy with school nurses.
    I have played form-tag with our school nurse (she has repeatedly lost my forms, which cost 10 bucks each time I need our doctor to send) and finally called her on the carpet when she refused to put an OTC clear calamine lotion on my son’s poison ivy (and confiscated it!) because she was only allowed to use the PINK calamine lotion- standing orders. She wanted a doctor form for the clear and sent my son home from school. I said I only wish there was a standing order for COMPASSION before I applied his medicine outside the door to school.

    That is what is so wrong with not allowing nurses, teachers, and administrators to allow a child to get a severe sunburn. Seriously?
    We had a case of child abuse for a mom who took her kids to the water park and never put any sunscreen on them causing severe burns. But school administrators are going to use their “need to fill out a form” excuse to let these girls get severe burns? What’s the difference?

  70. SKL June 22, 2012 at 4:54 am #

    But the kids didn’t need to be left in the sun. On that, the school’s hands were not tied.

    The invention of sunblock does not mean nobody has to use their brains about sun risks. Or does it? In a way, this is one example of how dumb we are making ourselves by putting so much stock in “safety products” (and other products too).

  71. AngieT June 22, 2012 at 4:55 am #

    From the looks of the girl on the right her face does look bad but some of that would only have appeared as a light red or even over exertion until it had a time to bake out of the sun. Burns continue to do damage even after the heat source has been removed (i.e. the sun in this case), and the skin would have continued to bake until the parent applied some sort of cooling cream or they went to the hospital for treatment. The blisters may not appear until the individual has been out of the sun for a couple of hours. The school definitely should have had a shady area for the students to be in, and given the level of information we can’t tell that they did not. We also aren’t told if the students were asked if they were o.k. or needed anything, other than the mentioning that their burns were commented on. Could they have been asked if they needed to sit out for a while and denied needing to? We can only speculate given the level of information provided by the parent and students.

  72. Heather G June 22, 2012 at 5:06 am #

    Maybe it’s because I live in Florida but sunscreen, even in school, is standard operating procedure. When I was in elementary school parents needed to fill out a form if they *didn’t* want sunscreen applied (or given to the child to apply) or if they had allergies that required special sunscreen. The school I volunteer in has this same policy. Thanks to spray sunscreen teachers don’t even have to touch kids to apply. Middle and high school kids were responsible for bringing and applying their own but it was specifically exempted, like feminine products, from any requirements that the office hold it.

    While there is much to be desired in Florida’s schools, it seems this is one area where being behind is actually being ahead.

  73. Julie June 22, 2012 at 5:19 am #

    Did anyone else notice that the mother stated “it was raining” when the kids left for school? Now I don’t know how hard it was raining but I would generally assume that Field Day would be postponed as a result of rain. Also, even though the mother suggested that someone at the school could have put sunscreen on her children, she did list several other actions they could have taken and was not claiming it was their responsibility to provide sunscreen. She stated, “a simple call would have brought me to that school in minutes to assist my kids.” What parent hasn’t forgotten a field day, field trip, picture day or other school event at least once in their child’s school years? It happens and there’s no reason they couldn’t have given her a call. The school does have a responsibility to protect children from harm and removing them from the sun (even simply sending them into the shade) or calling the mother and informing her of the situation were both options that could hardly have violated school policy.

    Personal Anecdote:
    When I was 8 years old I arrived at school on picture day in a ratty old sweatshirt and jeans. My teacher could tell I was upset when my friends reminded me what day it was and asked if I wanted to go to the office to phone my mother. I did want to, so I went to the office (I even walked UNACCOMPANIED), called my mom and she came 10 minutes later with an outfit and a curling iron for my hair. I just don’t see why one of the teachers or parents who commented that the children were getting a bit red couldn’t have suggested that they give their mom a call (or phoned the mother themselves).

  74. LRH June 22, 2012 at 5:30 am #

    Michelle Where it regards grammar etc, I would say I agree with Uly, I want to know. (I like the “toilet paper stuck on the shoe” comparison, too.) I mean, come on–if it’s wrong, it’s WRONG. It’s not like driving on the wrong side of the road & causing a car-crash level of wrong, & your tone shouldn’t be snotty (as mine maybe was), but it’s wrong. 2 + 3 = 5 not 7. But anymore, correct someone’s grammar, even if you do so delicately, and people act like you called their child ugly. Good grief.

    But forgive me if I’m doing the “red herring” thing. Back to the issue.

    Regarding the pertinent issue at hand: Lollipoplover right on, I say, to you having your kids put sunscreen on themselves in the bathroom. That’s what I think I would do. Have them do it beforehand? First-off, the parents had got to get to work often-times, they shouldn’t have to have this extra task added, but secondly, especially when it’s going to wear off by afternoon anyway, it’s pointless.


  75. Carolyn Russell (@MakingItWork82) June 22, 2012 at 5:53 am #

    Wow, and the details provided on the author’s page are even worse – her daughter has a form of albinism and has a 504 plan in place (which MUST cover being out in the sun!) And the kids aren’t allowed hats at school! I have worked with kids with various allergies to topical products, so I can understand the school’s concern about sunscreen, but there must be a better way. (Especially since it looks from the pictures as though the girls are old enough to responsibly apply their own sunblock provided from home!) What frustrates me the most isn’t even the school’s policy, it’s the attitude of, “Oh well, what could I do?” Lots. There are LOTS of ways this could have been avoided, if people had collectively addressed the problem.

  76. kathy June 22, 2012 at 6:16 am #

    HI we live in australia with some of the highest skin cancer rates in world. Kids at school are encouraged to slip slop slap , slip on a tshirt , slp on sunscreen and slap on hat , in schools no hat , no play . I cannot believe the schools policy on this issue and that you need a prescription for sunscreen . our children are beach babies and we have tought them the importance of sunscreen even on cloudy days , i really feel for these kids .

  77. pentamom June 22, 2012 at 6:26 am #

    See, this is where the “liability” excuse cases even to have explanatory value, let alone make sense.

    How is there NOT liability for knowingly letting kids get dangerously burned??????

    You simply CANNOT say that they couldn’t let them have sunscreen because of “liability,” but “liability” has no bearing on whether they can let them get toasted alive KNOWING it was happening.

    And per Yan’s comment, yes, their hands may have been tied by one law, but don’t they also have a duty by law not to cause harm to be knowingly inflicted on the kids in their charge? When two responsibilities like that conflict one has to win, and normal decent intelligent people who think should be expected to pick the one that actually protects the kid from harm, over the one that is just a generally applicable procedure.

  78. Donna June 22, 2012 at 6:29 am #

    “So unless the mom did not supply the school with sunscreen, the school does seem to be at fault here.”

    From the post appears to me that the mother absolutely DID NOT provide the school sunscreen. In fact, it seems like she did not even know about the policy until after this occurred. I’m not sure if a prescription would be needed in light of the 504 plan, but that was definitely not provided (you can tell by her quoting the cost of someone else obtaining the prescription, not her own cost of obtaining the prescription).

    The prescription policy is completely and utterly stupid, but I have to side with Angie here. Not in absolving the school – the girls absolutely should have been moved into the shade or inside – but in agreeing that the parents have some responsibility. Why exactly was sunscreen not provided by the parents? If my child had an illness for which sun exposure is extremely dangerous, I’d provide the damn sunscreen and doctor’s note come hell or high water.

    “Why put so much expectations on the parents, when they’re at work and these are supposed to be the people watching & educating our kids in our place?”

    Because ultimately they are YOUR children to feed, clothe and sunscreen. Further, trotting down to CVS, purchasing sunscreen and walking it into a building once a year aren’t exactly high expectations for parents. I had to do it when my child was in daycare. It took a grand total of 2 minutes out of my day once a year. Asking for a sunscreen prescription, while an idiotic requirement that should be done away with, at a regular doctor’s visit is not overwhelmingly onerous. I probably wouldn’t do it for my child who tans nicely but I sure as hell would if I had an albino child.

    There is also the option of having sunscreen on the sly. If I didn’t want to get the prescription (I 100% would get the prescription if I had an albino child), I’d slide my kid some sunscreen for field day and tell her to put it on in the bathroom. If she gets caught, I’d back her up with the school.

    These kids look to be upper elementary school age, not daycare. An elementary school’s job is solely to EDUCATE your child, not to act in loco parentis while you work.

  79. pentamom June 22, 2012 at 6:29 am #

    For example, I would hope anyone with the reasoning power to be expected in a school official could work out the conclusion that a law that prohibits touching of children is superseded by the need to catch them if they faint or administer CPR or AED if they go into arrest. Similarly, a reasonable AND thinking person should be able to conclude that a “no massaging” or “no medication” policy shouldn’t interfere with the use of sunscreen if a child is developing second-degree sunburn *before your eyes.*

  80. Jeff June 22, 2012 at 6:30 am #

    Everyone here seems to have missed one of the key lines in the story. There are THREE children. I expect the daughter with the 504 plan was covered by layers of legal paperwork and was either not outside or slathered in sunscreen.

    HOWEVER. When an institution requires a prescription for OTC items this is beyond the pale. Yes, there are issues of allergies (and I would like to see real numbers, not any guesses as to how many children are sensitive/allergic) but this can be alleviated by the simple application of a sharpie to the bottle of sunscreen.

    And you know, I do put a modicum of blame on the mother here. It would have been easy to go to or somesuch to see what the afternoon would be like. But not taking the 2 girls out of the sun as soon as they started is, as far as I am concerned, criminal negligence. I hate our lawsuit happy world, but I would hope that the mother _does_ sue for future medical costs. There is a strong enough link to a burn that severe to future skin health problems.

  81. Cass June 22, 2012 at 6:31 am #

    You may be interested in a book that discusses the results and implications of not allowing our kids responsibilty.

    “the case against adolescents” dr Robert Epstein

    He argues heavily for giving young people responsibilities in order that they ate able to show competencies, thus allowing them more freedoms.

  82. pentamom June 22, 2012 at 6:32 am #

    “These kids look to be upper elementary school age, not daycare. An elementary school’s job is solely to EDUCATE your child, not to act in loco parentis while you work.”

    I agree with this as a general approach, but a human being’s job is to take reasonable measures to mitigate another human being’s suffering where it is in their power, particularly when it is a relatively simple matter like this, and particularly when the suffering human being is under the authority of the other and pretty much unable to act apart from the authority’s permission.

  83. Shayne Zucker June 22, 2012 at 6:37 am #

    It is amazing how the times have changed. I remember spending summers either vacationing at some beach or working outside at a camp. I certainly remember using suntan lotion back then, but a sunburn was very common. In fact, we used to consider a good tan/burn a badge of honor.

    Granted, we now understand the dangers from too much exposure. But are these kids that damaged from one sunburn? Yes, they got sunburned and you know what? Put some Noxema, or any good lotion on it and it will heal in a couple of days.

    It’s getting to the point where we are soon not going to let our kids go outside anymore. We’re going to lock them in and hide them from every little remote possibility of danger. Maybe it’s just me and my old fashion memories. But it’s just a sunburn.

  84. Marion Ros June 22, 2012 at 6:44 am #

    This is insane (and AngieT, no matter how you cut it, it’s still insane). These are the facts:

    The school require a doctor’s prescription for sunscreen in order for the school to supply the kids at school with it.

    The kids are not allowed to take sunscreen from home in their schoolbag and apply it when they see fit, because “it’s medicine” (DRUGS!! Zero tolerance!!)

    The kids are not allowed to wear sunhats because of ‘school policy’.

    The parent did not slather the kids with sunscreen in the morning, because it was raining that morning. Only in the afternoon, when the kids were on field trip, the sun suddenly appeared and beat down mercilessly on them.

    Several adults in the field trip party made remarks on the fact that the kids were getting severely sunburned.

    One of the kid’s teacher used sunscreen in her presence and said to the (obviously sunburned kid) that the sunscreen was “just for her.”

    No matter how you cut it, this is spineless ignorance bordering on sadistic glee. Oh, I’m sure the sunscreen using teacher isn’t a sadist who enjoys rubbing a panting, ailing kid’s face in the fact that SHE has sunscreen and the kid has not, neener neener, but how blindingly ignorant/cruel do you have to be to deny any human being, let alone a kid in pain, some relief?!

    The mother has done nothing wrong. Why *should* she be forced to fork over fourhundred bucks to get a *prescription* for a bleeping two dollar tube of bleeping *sunscreen* for all three of her kids, when she no doubt has a cupboard full of the stuff? But what would’ve happened if she had put a tube in each kid’s bag ‘just in case’ and the kids had used it? No doubt they would’ve been expelled for using ‘drugs’ (hey, if you need a prescription for it, from a *doctor*, it’s drugs, right?)
    So the kids are not allowed to apply a bit of sunscreen on themselves. They are not allowed to wear a hat or a cap because the school does not permit the wearing of hats or caps during school hours.
    The only thing the kids are allowed to do is to suffer in silence whilst their teacher pulls out her own tube of sunscreen, applies it to herself, says, “tsk, tsk! You’re getting a nasty sunburn there. Too bad you don’t have a doctor’s prescription. This stuff is just for me!” and walks away.

  85. Sarah June 22, 2012 at 6:46 am #

    @LRH, I’m not sure why you’re so hostile, but you addressed me as if you didn’t read what I wrote at all. (Which, granted, might be the case.) I said not all teachers are stupid, meaning not all teachers would have gone along with something like this. I am not a mindless robot, thank you. And if you want teachers to be less sensitive, then stop bad-mouthing schools (and any other people, for that matter) in general. It does no good.

    Please relax and take it down a notch. Yes, this is a serious issue that we’re discussing, and you have a right to your opinion, but you’re so amped up on here, calling people names, etc. Remember, you don’t want to be a troll. 😉

    That said, I will not be responding to you anymore. Have a great day!

  86. Jaimie June 22, 2012 at 6:51 am #

    I am sorry Shayne, but I am not sure you really do understand the dangers of exposure. And I hope you never have to find out the long term damage that can be done by “just a sunburn”. I also spent much time outside in my youth – and proudly layered on the Noxema after I burned. Now I am watching my father deal with melanoma that started on his head, was removed along with a 3 inch by 3 inch section of his scalp and has now returned – in his spleen, lymph nodes, chest, legs and possibly brain. The fact is that “one or more blistering sunburns in childhood or adolescence more than double a person’s chances of developing melanoma later in life and “a person’s risk for melanoma doubles if he or she has had more than five sunburns at any age” (

    The fact is, while not every sunburn will result in a fatal cancer, the risks are real. You won’t know until decades later if it was “just a sunburn” and by then it will be too late. And while you can do much to alleviate the immediate pain of the burn, there is no lotion on the planet that will heal the hidden damage done to your skin.

    Please do educate yourself and keep an eye out for suspicious changes in your skin. Prevention and early detection are the best course of action. Please believe me when I say this – the other option truly sucks.

  87. Donna June 22, 2012 at 6:53 am #

    “Did anyone else notice that the mother stated “it was raining” when the kids left for school? Now I don’t know how hard it was raining but I would generally assume that Field Day would be postponed as a result of rain.”

    Field day was scheduled for the afternoon. Why would you assume that rain in the morning automatically means no field day in the afternoon? Schools go out of their way not to rearrange major events like field day. Field day will only be cancelled if it is raining at the time field day is scheduled.

  88. sonja June 22, 2012 at 7:08 am #

    The school is not there to act in loco parentis … BUT … they have the charge and care of the children every day from 8-ish to 3-ish. In many places the state demands that they have charge and care of the children … if yer gonna take that responsibility on, then ya gotta actually take care of the children. You don’t get to bag out of it with lame excuses. If you can see that a kid is getting sunburned, then you take him/her inside … it’s too late for sunscreen. It’s pretty simple … you don’t just stand there clucking about the shame of it all.

  89. Bronte June 22, 2012 at 7:16 am #

    This is absurd.
    I live in New Zealand. We (along with Australia) have the highest skin cancer rates in the world. Our UV ratings get up to 11 regularly in Summer, and even in Spring and Autumn the UV rates 8, which is about as high as much of the northern hemisphere ever reaches.When I was living in the UK, It took a full afternoon (5 hours) in the sun on holiday in Rome to burn to the degree I would burn in half an hour here.

    Schools have hats as part of the school uniform and if you don’t have a hat you don’t get to play outside in the summer and autumn terms. At my nephew’s school all kids get given a hat when they start school so there is no excuse. In addition, most primary classrooms have big bottles of sunscreen for kids (and teachers) to help themselves.

    I teach secondary and when we have swim sports or field sports day we are supplied with sunscreen and offer it to the kids.

    If you were to refuse to apply sunscreen to kids here it’s tantamount to child abuse.

  90. Sandra June 22, 2012 at 7:24 am #

    I work at a private school.
    Parents sign a form listing all medications the school can administer.
    The list includes pain killers, eye drops, cough drops, burn cream, ointments, etc.

    Why should a parent come all the way to school to bring a medication or worse, why should a child suffer when a medical professional is available?

  91. Oelsen June 22, 2012 at 7:27 am #

    This is the saddest thing I read this year so far. The second was the confirmation/reelection of Scott Walker. I think we should have a farewell party of both, Europe and the US and give the sceptre to the next who wants it. We do not deserve it anymore.

  92. DH June 22, 2012 at 7:45 am #

    My son needs to have a form to have sunscreen at daycare, and still the daycare says that it’s parent responsibility to make sure they are wearing it each day. Problem is, if we drop him off at 7:30 and they go outside at 2pm, the sunscreen I put on at 7:30 is GONE. Sunscreen is good for 2, maybe 3 hours on the skin. It doesn’t last a whole day. He’s not outside from 7:30am-2pm. This makes no sense.

    My kid is also blonde Irish. He is screwed when it comes to the sun.

  93. Donna June 22, 2012 at 8:42 am #

    “Why *should* she be forced to fork over fourhundred bucks to get a *prescription* for a bleeping two dollar tube of bleeping *sunscreen* for all three of her kids, when she no doubt has a cupboard full of the stuff? ”

    Because the school requires it and she has a child with a serious sun sensitivity and another who is an albino. The rule itself is stupid and I support her 100% in working to change the rule. Until she accomplishes that, her children’s health REQUIRES that she cross every t and dot every i to get them the sunscreen that they need. Not doing so is ridiculous. Letting your child get sun poisoning is absolutely not a proper form of protest over a sunscreen rule no matter how idiotic.

    My daughter is allergic to shellfish. I don’t send her to school on shrimp or sushi days (small private school on an island) without a home lunch, although packing a lunch those days is more inconvenient for me. Nor can I ignore the menus sent home every month and claim that I just didn’t know that shellfish was being served and the school should have made special efforts to inform me. The obligation is on ME and MY CHILD to protect her health and make suitable alternate arrangements. It is MY responsibility to figure out the policy towards my child’s allergies, follow those policies, read the menu and pack a suitable alternative lunch if she can’t eat what is served. It is not the schools responsibility to play detective and inform me of its policies and potential threats. It is my CHILD’s responsibility to ask to contact me to get a lunch alternative if she realizes we missed shrimp day. It is also my child’s responsibility to inform the teacher of the issue so she can at least see if alternative food is available and not suffer in silence. It is not the school’s job to inquire whether she has an alternate lunch or why she is not eating.

    None of this is to say that the school didn’t screw up. Schools need to get better at dealing with sun issues by getting rid of stupid policies like this, arranging field day in the morning when the sun is not as dangerous, providing shade, sending out reminders about field day, etc. If the kids informed their teachers of their lack of sunscreen, arrangements should have been made to get the kids sunscreen or for them to stay inside. The kids should have been taken out of the sun once the sunburn was first noticed to avoid it getting worse.

  94. Rachel Banzhaf June 22, 2012 at 8:56 am #

    My daughter is the only white kid at her daycare. There’s one (light) hispanic boy who’s occasionally there, but everyone else is some shade of brown. This week I had to point out the sunscreen and hat in her diaper bag and tell them to use it. So they did. Doesn’t have to be that complicated. x_x

  95. This girl loves to talk June 22, 2012 at 9:41 am #

    yeah maybe cause we are in australia our school have big suncream dispensers – each class has one. I actually think they use it too much! the kids apply it to themselves and lather it on lol even to go outside for a 20 min activity in the winter.

  96. Jen June 22, 2012 at 11:03 am #

    One previous poster mentioned the stacks of paperwork related to all the “medical” information for each student. I worked in a public school where staff members actually did not read all of that paperwork for every kid until a month into the school year. They ran out of time. This problem is made much, much worse if the paperwork has to include inane, stupid, ridiculous, over-the-counter items like sunscreen.

  97. Lisa June 22, 2012 at 11:09 am #

    You have to read the comments on the blog. Someone who appears to be a parent or staff at the school scolds the parent and backs it up with “facts” from the school handbook. I’d have to say if what that person posted is true, the fault lies with the parent. it wasn’t a Rx, it’s just a form a doctor has to fill out for over the counter medications. Kids CAN wear hats outside, etc. Plus, if the kids are so sensitive to the sun, why werent tehy covered up better? one girl was obviousy wearing a tank top.

  98. MyBloodyOpinion (@MyBloodyOpinion) June 22, 2012 at 11:15 am #

    I often think these days that they search for the biggest idiots and put them in charge of children.The more delusional, the better.

  99. LRH June 22, 2012 at 11:38 am #

    Lisa Even if that were true (and I question that it is), why not just let the child carry her own sunscreen & apply it herself? Why deny a child that? To me, it’s nothing less than a fundamental right, and no, no one should have to go through any paperwork nonsense for that. You have to get a doctor’s appointment just so they can fill out a form saying the child needs to use sunscreen? While that may not be the same sort of burden as an “Rx,” still, it’s unnecessary. It’s sunscreen for crying out loud. It’s not like it was something like codeine or meth (cold medication).

    As for the clothing–again, I guarantee you that had this parent sent her child to school covered up, there would be many who’d be making a case about that too “gee look at that poor child, she’s probably burning up in that hot clothing.”

  100. LRH June 22, 2012 at 11:53 am #

    For some reason, now at that site it says you must be “logged in” to post a comment. I don’t know why. I REALLY want to give it to that “E Johnson” person. I’m so angry at what that person said you could fry eggs on my head.

    “Look, Google is an amazing tool.” Yeah lady, so is duct tape–why don’t you try taping your mouth shut with it. Ugh.


  101. Donna June 22, 2012 at 12:17 pm #

    Now that I’ve read the mother’s follow-up comments, I find her even more to blame. She admits that she didn’t fill out the form or provide sunscreen. She knew about field day but it never occurred to her that her children would be in the sun, nor did she bother to ask for details apparently. She didn’t bother to ask although she states that her child is not allowed to be in direct sun at all and, in fact, direct sun is actually painful for her. She goes onto state that, because this was the first field day for the school, she couldn’t anticipate that this would happen. Because it was raining in the morning, she assumed some rainy day procedure would be in place but has no idea what that plan was nor did she ask. And lots of other excuses that make none of this her fault.

    Huh? I’m sorry but what was this kid doing at field day at all? Why would the mother not get details about an afternoon of outside fun when you have a child for whom direct sunlight is “painful?” I’d have gotten the details from the school and probably arranged for my child to miss the day or attended myself (it appears other parents were there and she states that she could have dropped everything to bring sunscreen) to ensure my child’s safety.

    The school should have done more but, sheesh, take some initative for your kid’s health, lady.

  102. LRH June 22, 2012 at 2:10 pm #

    My thoughts again: even IF the mother was a little sloppy and haphazard, the point of the post (I know, I’ve strayed off-topic in other posts myself, I admit it, just saying) was the school not coming to these girls’ aid when it would’ve been SO easy for them to do if it wasn’t for silly “thinking like lawyers” policies that compel them to be all about policies and not help out a child when it wouldn’t have been that big of a deal.

    I mean, would it have been that big of a deal for the organizers of this field trip to say “you know, we’re going to be outdoors a lot, it’s sunny and hot, the kids may need some sunscreen” and buying some ahead of time? Yes the mother could’ve furnished it for her child, I’m just saying I don’t think it would’ve been that big of a deal for the school to do it–and if they need to have the parents reimburse them for it, so be it.

    Some may say it’s “apples & oranges,” but we’ve done outings of that type for our nieces-nephews. When we’ve done so, we’ve been the one to go get such things for their needs, not asking their parents to, we did so, and it was not any way offensive or aggravating for us. Why can’t that be the prevailing attitude?

    And this seems to keep being forgotten–as for blaming the mother because she didn’t do the supplying of the sunscreen, what good does that do if the child can’t apply it herself at her own discretion anyway? I’m sorry, but when things are to where something that innocent is cause for school administrators to freak out over liability concerns, it’s just wrong. Period.

    Yes, I know–this could have been fixed with a doctor’s visit and a note. I’m just saying it shouldn’t have required that. It’s a ridiculous rule, and why is it that when such a ridiculous rule is put in place, the onus is put on the parent to accommodate it, rather than the originator of the ridiculous rule to not have done so? What if the rule stated that the mother had to show up wearing a Bugy Bunny outfit and signing “I’m a Stupid Mom With No Brains at the Seattle Space Needle and pay a $1000 “sunscreen administration fee?” Are we STILL going to call her on it rather than citing how stupid the rule is, and–gee, I don’t know–FIXING it already?

    Besides all of that, we’ve seen how often-times even doing what you have to do as the parent isn’t enough–how about the nurse that wouldn’t give a 17 year old his asthma inhaler, even while was having an attack (they can kill you, and even if they don’t, they HURT, BAD), even though his name was on the box, and–most of all–even though (as I understand) the parents HAD signed the necessary form, and then lost it? Even had they forgotten to sign the form, we’re going to blame it fully on the parents rather than a nurse locking a child in her office as he’s having an asthma attack & not allowing to use an inhaler with his freaking name on it?

    Heaven help us all.


  103. gina June 22, 2012 at 3:28 pm #

    I am a preschool teacher (2-year-olds) in Phoenix. In case anyone doesn’t know, our summer temps can hit 115 easily. We are permitted (actually required in the afternoon) to apply sunscreen to our students if it is labeled with the full name of the child.
    That said, what amazes me here is the lack of concern, by the teachers, for their students. I mean, nevermind what the legal situation is; you are teachers…you are supposed to CARE about children.
    If I have a child who has no sunscreen, I will always make sure that s/he has a tshirt on for waterplay (in diapers) and will watch to be sure that s/he is staying wet and cool. If there is ANY sign of sunburn, I take the child into the shade.
    THAT, it seems to me, is common sense and compassion.
    @LRH..I the your attitude about breaking stupid rules to get them changed..perhaps, like me, you are a child of the 60’s?

  104. Donna June 22, 2012 at 5:29 pm #

    Why exactly should a school be responsible for providing sunscreen for hundreds of kids or a district for tens of thousands? This wasn’t a field trip involving a handful of kids. It was FIELD DAY – as in a schoolwide event, likely hosted at every elementary school in the district, the definition of which is playing games and having races outside for hours. My school is cutting teachers left and right, has done away with parapros and aides completely and has teachers buying educational supplies out of their own pocketbooks. Where the hell is the money coming from to sunscreen the entire school district? And why should my tax dollars pay for it because parents can’t manage to throw some in a shopping cart while at Walmart and walk it into school?

    And actually the rules seem to say that the kids CAN apply it themselves if the form is completed. The mother made no attempt at the form nor did she attempt to send sunscreen at all (unlike the inhaler situation where the mom got the form completed but the school misplaced it and the kid had his inhaler with him). She never had any intention of sending any because her kids don’t need it for recess and assumed that it wouldn’t be needed for field day either. This was NOT an oversight. Never does she say “I would have sent sunscreen but for the rule.” Her answer as to why it was not provided was that her kids don’t need it because they stay in the shade. It is clear that she made a conscious decision to not use sunscreen at school. Then she expected the school to supply sunscreen and got mad when it didn’t. I’m not sure why I should feel outrage at the school rule when there is no indication that sunscreen would have been brought by the kids without the rule.

    If you don’t like the sunscreen rule at your school, work to change it. But ignoring it and sending your kids to field day where they will be in the summer sun for 4-5 hours without sunscreen to express your ire at the rule doesn’t seem like the most prudent course of action. If you must risk your child’s health in protest, a better choice would be to ignore the policy and send sunscreen anyway. She might get to use it and be fine, but if not, having sunscreen present that is refused is a much more sympathetic position than “I didn’t have any intention of providing needed sunscreen, but the school is a big meany for not taking it upon itself to find sunscreen and give it to my child.”

  105. Lin June 22, 2012 at 5:57 pm #

    Living in the country with the highest incidence of skin cancer in the world, that would make most Australians just shake their heads in disbelief. Slip (on a shirt), slop (on some sunscreen), slap (on a hat) is a mantra taught to kids before they can talk here. We have a “No hat, no outside play” rule here in schools 10 months of the year. And yes, all daycares and schools have a sunscreen supply because it is a small expense that can save huge medical expenses lateron. It is usually a bulk no-brand container which lasts for ages. If your child has sensitive skin or you are worried about harmful chemicals, you can put your own in their bag.

    As for the mother seemingly ignoring the rules (which are still not clear to me), don’t you think that letting kids burn to the point where their skin blisters is a bit too harsh a punishment for their mother’s non-compliance? If they really wanted to make a point a “because you don’t have your prescription or your sunscreen, you will have to stay in the shade and miss out” would’ve been a severe enough consequence and one that would not have compromised their health.

  106. Marion Ros June 22, 2012 at 6:44 pm #

    Dear Donna. Let’s suppose that the mother is the worst mother of America, neatly displacing Lenore. Let’s suppose that the mom is a drunk tart with a needle in her arm, yelling ‘screw my kids, let them burn, I’m too busy taking drugs and fornicating.

    Let’s just suppose that.

    Now suppose, Donna, that you are the teacher of this horrid woman’s children, and, on the Field Day, you see two of the kids get sunburned. You even comment on it.

    You have a tube of sunscreen in your bag for your own use.

    Now, what do you do?

    Do you, as any normal, humane person would do, offer some of your own sunscreen to the kids? Do you say, “sorry, I’m not allowed to put sunscreen on you, but lets get you out of the sun, you’re obviously in pain”, or do you, as the teacher is quoted having done, lather yourself and tell the kids, “sorry, it’s only for me”, and walk away to leave the kids getting even more sunburned?

    It’s not a question wether the school is required to “providing sunscreen for hundreds of kids or a district for tens of thousands”. There were no ‘hundreds’ or ‘thousands’ kids afflicted. There were TWO kids afflicted. Several adults (including teachers) noticed and remarked on the fact that these kids were suffering. One teacher had the solution (sunscreen) on hand. And denied it to them. Because the mother had not filled in or offered the right form?

    It’s the Milgram Experiment all over again.

    Note that the Milgram Experiment began in July 1961, three months after the start of the trial of German Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem. Milgram devised his psychological study to answer the question: “Was it that Eichmann and his accomplices in the Holocaust had mutual intent, in at least with regard to the goals of the Holocaust?” In other words, “Was there a mutual sense of morality among those involved?” Milgram’s testing suggested that it could have been that the millions of accomplices were merely following orders, despite violating their deepest moral beliefs.

    Note also that ‘Befehl ist befehl’, ‘just following orders/precedure’ has ceased to be a legal defense after WWII. Nuremberg Principle IV states:

    “The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him.”

    You see, Donna, it DOESN’T MATTER wether the mom was the Best Mom of the World or the worst. It DOESN’T MATTER wether the school ‘can’t provide sunscreen for hundreds of kids’. What MATTERS is that the adults/teachers present saw two individual kids suffer severe sunburn and they DID NOTHING TO HELP because ‘superior orders’ prohibited it.

  107. Lin June 22, 2012 at 7:00 pm #

    Can anyone explain to me why it seems to be accepted that you need a doctor’s note to be allowed to carry sunscreen in your school bag? Is it a US thing? I don’t get it…

  108. Selby June 22, 2012 at 8:02 pm #

    Can people with allergies to sunscreen actually die from incidental contact or is it that their skin reacts in an adverse, unpleasant way?

  109. Maria H. June 22, 2012 at 8:17 pm #

    I recently fogot to apply sunscreen to my 3rd grade daughter before her field day. I realized it about halfway thru the day, when I was already on the way to help with her class. When I got there, I told her we needed to apply some. She replied that her teacher had already done it. I was so thrilled! Yes, our school has a policy that sunscreen is a medication and teachers are not allowed to use it on children. However, this woman has a brain and she used it and kept my child from burning. I feel very blessed that she was in our lives this year.

  110. Selby June 22, 2012 at 8:33 pm #

    SUNSCREEN IS NOT MEDICATION!!!!!!! Jeeeeeez Louiiiiiiiiiise……

  111. Lin June 22, 2012 at 8:56 pm #

    Anyone? Where does the ‘sunscreen = medication’ idea come from? I am starting to feel ike an ignorant Aussie here. lol

  112. Silver Fang June 22, 2012 at 9:28 pm #

    I hope the families of the burned girls sue the school. Then the school will see that being overly cautious can get you sued just as easily as being under-cautious.

  113. pentamom June 22, 2012 at 9:38 pm #

    “It’s not a question wether the school is required to “providing sunscreen for hundreds of kids or a district for tens of thousands”. There were no ‘hundreds’ or ‘thousands’ kids afflicted. There were TWO kids afflicted.”

    Right. It’s not a question of policy. It’s not a question of whether a school “should be expected” to do XYZ if “everyone” left it up to the school to do XYZ.

    It’s a question of whether those people, in that situation, on that day, once the situation arose for those particular children whose parents weren’t adequately prepared for whatever reason, should have done something to protect children from being hurt, when it was WELL within their power without ANY special effort at all.

    It’s not appropriate to “expect” everyone else to take clearly spelled out responsibilities for your children. It is ABSOLUTELY appropriate to expect people to act like human beings in specific situations where the choice is between acting like a human being, and citing a rule.

  114. Jenna June 22, 2012 at 9:51 pm #

    I think there were mistakes on both the part of the school and the parent in this situation. It’s not entirely the school’s fault nor is it entirely the parent’s fault. If this happened to my family, I’d be upset, but I’d chalk it up to a big mistake and leave it at that.

  115. dyenamic June 22, 2012 at 9:52 pm #

    Absolutely ridiculous that school systems will let children suffer because they need to prevent lawsuits in the name of “safety.” When my son got his braces on, the orthodontist told him to take Advil or Tylenol if he became uncomfortable. Because he was at school, I would have had to have a “prescription” and take an unopened bottle to the nurse’s office and he would have to go there for them to administer the Tylenol. Really? My child is almost 13 years old. He’s responsible and I was willing to give him only two acetaminophen in a Ziplock bag to reduce the risk that he would “distribute” the so called drugs to other students. He decided being in pain was better than all the hassle to take a basic pain reliever, so he suffered at school for two days in a row. I was appalled and let my opinion be known to the school, though it fell on deaf ears. Why do parents put up with this nonsense, and since when is sunscreen a drug?

  116. Julia June 22, 2012 at 9:55 pm #

    I was either a Junior or Senior in highschool but net yet 18. I could drive a car however. On the first day of school I got a massive headache and because I had not yet gotten a permission slip signed saying it was okay for me to take Tylenol I suffered through the day ending up crying by the end of it. This story reminds me of that.

  117. Sunnie June 22, 2012 at 10:05 pm #

    Write the book. Get the info out there.

  118. Dave June 22, 2012 at 10:09 pm #

    When we are afraid to do the right thing because of some rule or law we go down a dangerous path. Educators are supposed to teach our children to think not blindly obey. What hope do we have when our educators refuse to think. Enough of this kind of behavior and made we will start to wake up.

  119. Selby June 22, 2012 at 10:13 pm #

    I have yet to find any documented case of a child dying from sunscreen use, therefore let us get over ourselves, stop bracketing these kids in the same category as kids with serious allergies and stop looking for life-threatening danger where none exists.

    To review:

    A child with a blocked airway from ingesting peanuts: emergency. This child has a life-threatening allergy that requires school involvement and cooperation from classmates and community to avoid a fatal and tragic incident.

    A skin-sensitive child with a rash from using sunscreen: not an emergency. Uncomfortable, a nuisance, a drag, sure. But not fatal, not a tragedy. Calm down. This child has adverse reactions to some skincare products but this can be easily managed, and it’s nothing that requires extreme measures from the school or the community. Kindly seek another way for your child to be considered medically special so that all kids can carry their own sunscreen and apply it.

  120. LRH June 22, 2012 at 10:19 pm #

    *****This section is the main thing I want to say (again) about this.*******

    pentamom You nailed it also in my opinion. It is correct–if I expect the school to do EVERYTHING and I don’t take SOME initiative to know what’s going on and plan accordingly so that our kids are good-to-go for the day, that is somewhat on me. If, let’s say, I deliberately don’t give my daughter lunch money or whatever (or a sack lunch), I do this ON PURPOSE vs it being a non-intentional oversight, and shrug it off “I’m sure someone will take pity on her and give her something to eat, I mean, they’re a big building full of lots of people, and a cafeteria with food they’ll probably toss out otherwise anyway”–now that would not be right.

    HOWEVER, if I somehow FORGOT I sure would much appreciate someone covering it out of compassion for her and also for a parent’s daily plight, doing so with a sympathetic “that’s okay, we all forget things sometimes” sort of tone, you know, some GRACE–as opposed to “you’re their parent, how can you forget to give them lunch money, I’ve not ONE TIME forgotten my girl’s lunch money. If you can’t do something that simple, maybe you ought not have had children.”

    The latter statement is all too common & is part of the “climate of judging parents for being imperfect for a moment” (something like that) which Lenore speaks of often.


    gina I was born in 1968.

    Lin Believe me, many of us don’t “get it” either. I agree completely with you. Where we came up with the idea that sunscreen was in need of management as “medication” as if it were Prozac or codeine etc, it surs beats me–unless it’s because probably 1 in 30 (my guess) kids are allergic to it, and the “worst first thinking” and “thinking like laywers” (2 of Lenore’s favorite terms) means that rather than assuming a child is OK with sunscreen until they’re found not to be (or told to them by the parents as not being), we forbid anyone & everyone totally from using it without a doctor’s note of some sort because of that 1 in 30 chance they’re allergic (and the fear the parents will pitch a fit “DON’T EVER ASSUME!!”), vs the 29 in 30 chance they’re fine and the almost certainty they’ll burn if it’s withheld from them. Yes Selby, I don’t get the whole “sunscreen-medication” either (unless, again, it’s as I just explained).

    Marion Ros Exactly. That said, I will agree with Donna on one thing–my approach, if I were in this situation, would be more along the lines of giving them sunscreen anyway and instructing them how to apply it “on the sly” and then backing them over the school if a broh ha ha (did I spell that correctly?) erupted over it. (And yes, that is anthetical to what my other favorite parenting pundit, John Rosemond, says–he tends to advocate backing the school over your kid & teaching them to do what they’re told, but I disagree in cases like this.)

    dyenamic Exactly. If & when I as a parent encounter that scenario (I figure I will), I don’t know what I will do. I think I might be inclined to do what others said about the sunscreen–give him 2 pills in a sandwich bag & tell him to “take it on the sly” at the appropriate time, and when the school throws a fit, throw one back, a NASTY one (not one that will get you arrested obviously). Way to go for letting them know of your thoughts on the matter.


  121. LRH June 22, 2012 at 10:21 pm #

    Darn it, me & my fancy “em” tags (for italics). If I’m going to do that, I need to remember to turn them off when I’m done. I’m sorry about that, people.

    (To myself: “ugh!”)

  122. atomic sagebrush June 22, 2012 at 11:52 pm #

    What everyone from California, Arizona, Florida, Australia, etc. need to understand is that this occurred in Western Washington – very rainy and overcast most of the time and regardless of whether “you can get a sunburn even on a cloudy day”, the fact is, in Western Washington, you generally DON’T. You’re at higher risk of mushrooms growing on you if you stay outside awhile. If it was raining in the morning and I lived in Western Washington, I’d not have put sunscreen on my kids, because most of the time, if it’s raining in the morning in WWa, it will be raining in the afternoon as well. Rain is something of a perpetual condition, which is why all those Twilight vampires like to live in Western Washington. It would never even OCCUR to me to put sunscreen on my kids as a preventative measure “just in case” the sun came out – because it probably wouldn’t. There’s a case to be made that sunscreen may carry with it risks as well and it makes some sense to limit exposure to when it’s a necessity rather than slathering chemistry all over a child’s body 4 times a day, 24-7-365 whether or not it’s needed. Going to the beach in Florida in August, yeah, worth the risk. Going to school on a rainy day in June (which is typically quite rainy in WWa) in Tacoma – probably not.

    In terms of sun exposure vs. sunscreen, you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t. My kids and I, who no longer live in WWA, are allergic to sunscreen so we choose not to use it – they break out in itchy rashes that can last weeks and I’m physically unable to put it on them due to my own allergy (I’m also allergic to most rubber gloves so that’s not a viable option for me.). We limit midday sun exposure strictly and use protective clothing when possible and sane, but over the course of a summer, they get at least some level of tanning, for which I am constantly lectured by strangers and then have to explain our allergies. Apparently it’s better that I should keep them cooped up indoors in front of the TV all summer then risk a very faint and gradually acquired tan on a child.

    Yes, melanoma is a risk (and much more serious and realistic one than getting abducted by strangers!) but many more people die from diabetes and heart disease caused in no small part by obesity and sedentary lifestyle. Just as a sunburn in childhood can predispose a child to future melanoma, a sedentary lifestyle as a child can predispose a person to greater risk of diabetes, heart disease, and so on. Sometimes we as parents have to pick our battles and I personally would say the risk of melanoma from sun exposure as a child is far, far less than the risk of setting a child on a path of bad habits that can end up killing them just as certainly as melanoma can.

  123. Maggie June 23, 2012 at 12:47 am #

    My children are homeschooled so I can’t speak to local policies in the schools, but my oldest three participate in 4H. The enrollment form has a section authorizing which OTC medications can be given to my children by staff and volunteers(acetaminophen, ibuprofen, benadryl, antibiotic ointment, Antihistamine,Antacid, Decongestant ,Dramamine, Hydrocortisone) Seems like a school could adopt a similar form. When my daughter went to camp, I reminded her to ask the older girls to help her put sunscreen on her back. It’s only common sense.

    I have to wonder, for the schools that don’t allow children to bring their own sunscreen from home to apply themselves, do they also prohibit students from having hand lotion, chapstick, etc? Most personal care products have little or no risk of harming a child.Another commenter already addressed tampons and TSS.

  124. Emily June 23, 2012 at 2:32 am #

    Lol at the massive pump of Home Brand sunscreen–we had that even at International House, where all the people who lived there were adults, but I think they just did it as a precaution for people from cultures that aren’t quite as sunny as Australia, who might otherwise not think to put it on. I’m from Canada, and on my first trip to the beach, I put sunscreen everywhere except my face, because I have sensitive skin, and my body was okay, but I ended up with a pretty bad sunburn on my face. I looked like a tomato (or, as the Aussies say, “toMAHto), for about a week.

  125. erin June 23, 2012 at 2:38 am #

    I read every word you write but rarely comment. However, this post made me crazy with anger! The policy is insane to include sunscreen which is over the counter. The principle is not being rational. I could think of some “solutions” to this problem. 1) if it truly is the policy, then if it is too sunny, don’t let the girls participate. This solution would suck for the kids who would then suffer for a stupid policy. But hey, what about solution #2 – call the parents to get permission to put sunscreen on the kids!

    Our school let’s parents know that field day is coming up and requests the kids to come to school with sunscreen. This is another solution.

    Finally, if the policy is set in stone, find a way around the policy. For example, have parents sign a permission slip for kids to get sunscreen as needed at the beginning of the school year.

    I hate to bring is up but doesn’t an early burn on young skin make someone more likely to get skin cancer? Nice going principle!

  126. Ms. Herbert June 23, 2012 at 3:50 am #

    In Texas the minors must have a note from their parent about OTC medications – it is the law. The note has to be renewed either once a month or once a grading period. I encourage my parents to have certain medications at school with the nurse and a note. Especially my students with allergies to have OTC Allergy meds and cough med.

    Our RN used to have standing orders from local doctors to give out some OTC medications. Last year no local doctor would sign the standing orders. (Some memo that some regulatory agency sent out either TEA, SBOE, or some medical agency recommended doctors not sign standing orders).

  127. Lollipoplover June 23, 2012 at 4:06 am #

    How can the “tanorexic” mom, Patricia Krencil, face child endangerment charges for taking a child “tanning” and getting her sunburned, but the teacher who refuses to apply sunscreen to a child who is obviously burning is OK?
    And of course the blame always lands on….the mom.

  128. Maggie June 23, 2012 at 4:50 am #

    Ms. Herbert,
    A note from the parent seems reasonable, very much in line with the permission form 4H uses, and a far cry from requiring a doctor’s note. Though my child can go to the store by herself and buy sunscreen without a note from me! 😉

  129. Donna June 23, 2012 at 5:52 am #

    Marian Ross – I’ve said REPEATEDLY that the school was WRONG. That the school should have done more.

    I am simply sick of the US attitude of no self-responsibility and victim mentality. This mother is taking NO responsibility in the situation. She didn’t think to send sunscreen to prevent her children from getting burned but the problem is solely with the school who didn’t take measures after the kids were already burned. There is not a single sense of “oops, my major bad for not being more proactive here, but the school should have still done XYZ” in either of her posts I read. It’s a lot of excuses for why she was not wrong for not sending sunscreen.

    I also don’t understand the attitude that is frequently expressed on this board that only one person/group can possibly be wrong in any one given situation. Why saying the mother made some bad choices that contributed to this incident automatically must mean that I believe that the school is a wonderful institution that did everything correctly (despite my saying repeatedly that the school was wrong too). Most situations that turn really bad like this are a culmination of several different people doing the wrong thing. Say the school had provided the sunscreen/moved the kids inside once the burns were noticed. You do understand that once the burns are noticed, the burns have already happened? The school could have stopped them from getting worse (although you are already really sunburned if it is noticeable while still in the sun). The school could never have PREVENTED them completely. The mother could have prevented the entire incident by putting a bottle of sunscreen in a backpack (because I don’t really believe that the school was policing a few hundred kids with sunscreen on a field to see who had sunscreen notes and who didn’t). Both were wrong.

    And the hundreds and thousands of kids comment was to LRH who stated that the school should have bought sunscreen and provided it for the event.

  130. Jake June 23, 2012 at 6:03 am #

    The point is altogether well taken, but keep in mind that the ability of sunblock lotions to prevent skin cancer remains in doubt.

  131. ECB June 23, 2012 at 6:20 am #

    I’m not a parent, but I’ve been interested in this website for awhile now, so I thought I might start posting.

    Regarding this whole situation, first off, sunburns are not inherently lethal. Yes, there’s an increased risk of skin cancer if you get a serious sunburn. Yes, there are some rare medical conditions, like XP, where a person is literally allergic to sunlight. But, basically unless you’re a vampire, a sunburn doesn’t seem like that big of a deal. I’m not trying to downplay what happened to those kids. Those pictures look painful. It’s just strange to me that after reading all these comments about how kids are so sheltered and that back in the day we ate poop, and broke bones, and spent the summer in a Turkish prison, and got decapitated without any long term damage, etc…so many posters would be up in arms about a sunburn. I got a pretty nasty sunburn on my legs on an 8th grade class trip, and the most I ended up getting was a sympathetic “ouch”. Actually, if I recall correctly, my burn was about like what was shown in those photos, although I don’t think I blistered. I ended up missing the 8th graduation cookout we were supposed to have, and it was hard to walk up the stairs with the back of my knees sunburned, but otherwise, it wasn’t that big of a deal.

    Secondly, I completely agree that it’s ridiculous that schools should fail to administer first aid to the kids because they’re afraid of a lawsuit. Common sense says that if someone is seriously hurt, you call 911, and administer first aid if qualified to do so. Common sense also says that a nurse in an elementary school, should be able to at least do basic medical things that most parents could do at home.

    However, I’m not sure if it’s fair to place all the blame for this situation on the teachers. Yes, they should have made more of an effort to help these kids. However, it’s not as if they tied these kids to a tree and shone a magnifying glass on them. From what I can tell from the photos, these kids aren’t preschoolers. Both of them look like they should be old enough to go up to a teacher themselves, and say they aren’t feeling well. I could be wrong about this, but I imagine that if you’re out in the sun long enough to get a severe sunburn, then more likely or not you’re also going to start feeling a little bit of heat exhaustion. These burns didn’t just appear by magic. They had to have known what was going on.

    Which brings me to another point. Like I said above, I don’t believe that sunburns are that big of a deal for the most part. When it comes to sunscreen, I think that if you and/or your kids are going to be out in the hot sun for long periods of time, then obviously you should apply sunscreen. However, if you forget or apply it incorrectly, it’s not that big of a problem. Worst-case scenario, you get sunburned. This is what makes sense to me for a normal kid. Even a normal kid with sensitive skin.

    However, one of these kids apparently has a documented medical condition, related to skin sensitivity. Apparently it’s serious enough that they have a 504 plan, which according to another poster means a physical or mental impairment which severely limits one or more major life activity. Personally, I don’t think that ordinary sensitivity to the sun should qualify for this. So this woman’s kid’s sensitivity must be pretty serious. Serious enough that they would have to factor this in when making life decisions. Also, it sounds as though a skin sensitivity serious enough to qualify for a 504 plan, should be serious enough that the mom would no more choose not to provide her daughter with sunscreen, and expect the school to take care of it, then the mother of a diabetic or asthmatic would blindly expect the school to provide insulin or inhalers.

    In this situation, sunscreen sounds like it should be mandatory, whether it’s summer or winter, cloudy or sunny. No sunscreen, the kid stays in. Even if they miss out on something fun. Even if the teacher yells at them. If I’m correct about this, then the kid with albinism should never have gone outside in the first place. The 504 plan is supposed to be for conditions that severely limit some activity. Like I said, those kids aren’t preschoolers. The girl with albinism has most likely lived with it her whole life, by now she should have been taught to accomodate her handicap (assuming it actually is one),and known what to do when presented with this sort of situation.

  132. ECB June 23, 2012 at 6:44 am #

    “Can people with allergies to sunscreen actually die from incidental contact or is it that their skin reacts in an adverse, unpleasant way?”

    Selby, I don’t know for sure, but it sounds more likely that someone allergic to sunscreen would have a skin reaction rather than go into anaphylactic shock. That seems like it would be a one in a million reaction. It makes me wonder if it would be practical for the teachers to just do their own allergy test. If the kid doesn’t know whether or not they’re allergic to sunscreen, then apply a very small amount to their arm. If his skin starts to react, wash it off ASAP, make a note of it, and do whatever else is necessary. If it doesn’t, slather the sunscreen on, and let him go on his way. Does anyone know whether this sort of thing would work with, say, a classroom full of kids? At least in terms of not taking up too much time and effort?

  133. Adam June 23, 2012 at 8:34 am #

    I’d like to just weigh in with a slightly different take.
    The sunscreen = medication is a new one on me, but my spouse, who teaches 8th grade, and her co-workers would not be able, under a different horribly misguided school policy predicated on a fear of lawsuits, to apply a cream sunscreen, because they are not allowed to *touch* the students.
    It’s the physical contact that is the barrier to commonsense behavior here.
    (She would apply it anyway, if there was some available.)

    Hilariously, she thinks that she could apply a spray sunscreen without running afoul of the rule.

  134. Suzanne June 23, 2012 at 8:21 pm #

    I see a lot of responses that claim the sunscreen would have worn off by the afternoon. That isn’t true; it may not have still been providing 50 or 80 spf but it would have provided enough protection to prevent burns especially to the degree that the girls had. I’ll admit to being the “bad parent” here but I routinely only put sunscreen on my kids in the morning and they have not gotten sunburned on any day that they had sunscreen on. That included field day when they went out in the afternoon. My opinon is that when the adults at this school saw they were getting burned and commented on it the girls should have been sent inside, maybe call the mom and tell her what’s going on so she could bring them different clothes or take them home since they couldn’t participate further in field day. It is really sad that teachers had sunscreen and refused to share regarless of the policy – if they were going to use it without sharing then they should not have done it in front of the kids, that’s really bad manners. I think it’s both the mom’s and the school’s faults. Mom should have put on sunblock reguardless of the weather in the morning (you can check hourly forecasts online) and the school should have done whatever was needed to prevent the kids from being burned to the point of blisters. The other thing I have issue with in this article is that she took the kids to the hospital – who does that? Why have we turned into a society that needs to run our kids to the doctor for every little thing, it’s a sunburn, that is NOT and emergency.

  135. Meg June 23, 2012 at 10:29 pm #

    I have skin cancer and a pasty white child with red hair and blue eyes. I could not send her to a school where she couldn’t wear a UPF 50 sunhat outdoors or the play areas were covered with UPF material. I would fight that immediately with the school or district as appropriate. There are lots of easy ways to balance school concerns against sun safety concerns like the parent org selling a standard or school approved UPF sunhat.

    On the sunscreen, there is a problem on both ends. First, for non-prescription meds, a parent note should be acceptable. I know for camp and our private school, we sign a yes/no it’s okay to administer OTC meds like benadryl, aspirin, etc just like we sign the waiver that the school or camp can seek outside emergency med treatment if they judge it’s required.

    Second, on the sunscreen, the school should not provide it (due to allergies, etc) nor should they have to ‘administer’ it. It’s a parent’s responsibility to make sure the child goes to school/camp with a coating of sunscreen, plus instructions to reapply. My daughter develops breasts within days of putting certain chemicals on her skin so after and exhaustive search, I’ve found sunscreens that are both safe and effective. I send them in her backpack every day with each tube labeled with her name, including a stick sunscreen which is easy for her to apply and reapply. She knows to reapply after lunch. (She’s only 5 and has been doing it herself for 2 years.)

    A 4/5 yo doesn’t do a fabulous job of reapplying sunscreen, but using a physical sunscreen helps (which rubs off rather than breaks down like chemical sunscreens – yes, even a SPF 80 chemical sunscreen will not be very effective after a couple hours in sunlight), and even missing a couple of spots on a reapply, combined with a hat and UPF clothing (like a long sleeve rashguard for swimming) prevents burns.

    One severe childhood sunburn increases the risk of melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer. One out of every two cancers detected today is skin cancer. Current research says most skin cancer results from sun exposure before age 20. I have lots of scars to prove it.

    Now let’s talk about UV filtering sunglasses, because they are just as necessary and I can’t get my kid to wear them.

    [great info at]

  136. Taradlion June 24, 2012 at 5:46 am #

    Shelby- I don’t know about everybody, but I posted yesterday about my sunscreen allergic kid. I absolutely do not think sunscreen should be banned in school. I think teachers and counselors should put it on kids who may have forgotten it for prolonged exposure. My kid, since age 4 had known how to say, “I am allergic to some sunscreens and can only use the one from home.” I, like Donna, make sure I am aware of schools plans – I have to be a bit more concerned- I do NOT expect everyone else to avoid sunscreen because of my kid.

    Skin reaction for my son is sometimes immediate and sometimes delayed. Usually a rash (and I agree not in the same category as anaphylactic reaction). I think the KIDS should have remembered field day (especially if they are being taught to manage their condition). I think they should have said, “I have to stay in the shade”. I think mom should have filed out forms, etc…and I think the teachers should have called mom or taken action to keep the kids from burning.

    It takes a village to raise a kid. Should not be up to the village idiot.

  137. Lisa June 24, 2012 at 7:07 am #

    This is just crazy! NO Hats – really? Would not be allowed in Australia, no hat no play and if they are worried about gangs then have a school hat – have all the students wear the same hat in the same colour – get the school name embroided on it. As for sunscreen the parents should be applying it before the child leaves for school. How about a policy where the students can apply their own sunscreen, teachers carry spares and if the child is allergic then the parent can send a note to school stating this and that child will not be allowed to have any! OR if is a hot day keep the kids in the shade (ever heard of trees). This situation could have been avoided by some common sense on all sides (including the children), teachers have a duty of care, parents have a duty of care and those students were old enough to tell the teachers “I am allergic to sunscreen and need to wear a hat or sit in the shade”. As for no wearing of hats this still stuns me – for a nation so worried about litagation I can see some skin cancer cases coming their way in later years – denying the children hats is just plain irresponsible and dangerous,

  138. Bridget June 24, 2012 at 11:40 am #

    ” Her response centered around the the school inability to administer what they considered a prescription/medication (sunscreen) for liability reasons.”

    Sunscreen is not a prescription medication. Therefore, It is my opinion that the school has no authority to “consider” it as a prescription medication. The school can’t decide what is and is not a prescription. That is for the medical professional to decide.

  139. Jenny Islander June 24, 2012 at 4:10 pm #

    @Bridget: This is my major concern. It goes up there with the school principal who decided that s/he could decree how children were to travel to the city park, off school grounds, after school hours, or that poor kid who was put through the wringer because another student saw him using a Swiss Army knife on his own time and off school grounds. The school authorities cannot declare themselves to be police officers and legislators. Neither should they declare themselves pharmacists or doctors.

    Also, I don’t give a good golly darn whose fault it was that those kids showed up inadequately prepared for a sunny day outside, or whether giving them sunscreen might have enabled their or their parents’ mental laziness, or whatever. Child in immediate danger of injury = immediate move to protect the child. I had a severe sunburn as a child. All I could think about was the pain. It blotted out everything else. I spent at least a day feeling like I was on fire and a week feeling sore and itchy. Why put anybody through that if there is a quick and simple alternative?

  140. Jenny Islander June 24, 2012 at 4:14 pm #

    Forgot about the chills. I hated those sick chills that alternated with the periods of terrible heat. You know the feeling you get if you have a sensitive tooth and you drink something cold? Imagine that feeling all over your body and inside your torso as well.

    I also note that the real doctors at Tacoma General, unlike the pretend doctors at the school, were concerned about the children’s burns.

  141. Marion Ros June 24, 2012 at 6:47 pm #

    Just to put in my two cents in (again – lol!): I believe a lot of people are barking up the wrong tree (sorry).

    You see, the thing that bothers me about this case is not wether or not the mother was neglectful in not slathering her kids in sunscreen (as the mother says in a follow-up post, the whole ‘light skin’ thing had never been an issue before because the kids know to find a bit of shadow or whatever during recess. This is a first for them and mom)

    I don’t really care about wether the school should be responsible for having sunscreen on hand for all the kids running around either (although the school does forbid kids to have a tube of the stuff in their schoolbags and make it difficult – with all kinds of paperwork – to ‘legally’ apply the stuff on the kids)

    I wouldn’t even care (and this might shock you – or not, lol!) if the teachers/adults present had shrugged and said, “meh, it’s just a sunburn. Sunburns and scraped knees won’t kill ya, kid!”

    Because, seriously, we all got a bit of sunburn in our days, and we might now find out that in a few very unfortunate cases a simple sunburn might have repercussions (just as a very few scraped knees might give a kid tetanus, e-coli or rabies), no sane person, no free range parent, would want schools to freak out over ever scraped knee or little bit of sunburn.

    Of course, if the kid in question has a albino factor, it might be a bit different, but still, I’m all for a modified ‘buck up kid, don’t be such a weenie (but let’s keep an alert eye on things)’ approach.

    Only, that is not what this case is about. The teachers/adults present didn’t say, ‘suck it up, it’s a bit of sunburn, you’ll live’. No, what they did is remark upon the fact that the kids were very, very sunburned, oh, the poor bunnies!, but then did nothing to ease them because of, well, rules you know. Then one of them pulled out a tube of sunscreen, put it on HERSELF (“ooh, look at the kid! That reminds me, I’d better put some stuff on myself or I’ll be roasted too!”) and but she refused to give some to the ailing kids (because it’s POLICY!! “Sorry that you’re in such pain, but my hands are tied. Rules, you know”). In fact, all of the adults present not only refused to aid the kids, they actively hindered any action that might’ve prevented it from getting worse. They refused to take the kids out of the sun, they did not allow them to cover themselves (the singlet shirts were given to them to wear because the kids were having an ‘Olympics sports day’ and to allow them long sleeves would apparantly make them ‘partypoopers’ or something likewise horrible) or there heads (‘against school rules’), or let them phone their mom to have HER put on their sunscreen, or to simply give them any form of first-aid (tip for sunburns: put some yogurt or sliced/mashed cucumber on it. But heck, even just sitting in the shade with a cooling wet cloth on the afflicted skin would’ve given some relief) because this all, apparently, falls under ‘giving medicine’ and the kids didn’t have the right piece of paper for that on file.

    How sadistic, how a-moral do you have to be to see a fellow human being, and a kid at that, suffer and then not only refuse to help but to actively hinder the person from getting help?

    How cowardly, how a-moral can you be to do all this because of ‘policy’?

    It is one thing to say, “wir haben es nicht gewusst”, “we didn’t know that these kids skins were so sensitive, we just thought it was, y’know, a bit of sunburn, no biggie”. It’s quite another thing to KNOW that this is a bad sunburn that needs attention but then to refrain from giving aid, to actively make things worse, because “befehl ist befehl”, “we were just following policy”.

  142. Louise June 25, 2012 at 6:18 am #

    I cannot believe how ridiculous this is, get real!! Prescriptions for sunscreen … what next?! Common sense people, most children know they have allergies and how hard is it to keep sunscreen on the list? teachers know about other allergies – a simple form at the start of the year sorts this. I run the SunSmart Schools programme in New Zealand and I hope we never get to this stage. What we need to remember is sunscreen is the last line of defence – SLIP (into a t-shirt and into some shade), SLOP (on some sunscreen), SLAP (on a hat) and WRAP (on some sunglasses). We are preventing Skin Cancer – protecting our children. Would love to be updated about the book…

  143. Metanoia June 25, 2012 at 8:29 am #

    In Australia we are now hugely aware of the dangers of sunburn and here it is common for any outdoor activity, and classrooms to have huge 2L jugs of sunscreen as free-for-all and reminders of reapply reapply reapply. We’ve gone form “slip slop slap” in the 80s (shirt, sunscreen, hat) to a 5 step plan including sunglasses and stay in the shade as well.

    It is not the same as a skinned knee. Sunburn is a leading cause of skin cancer. And we know how to help prevent it… sunscreen!

  144. KC June 25, 2012 at 11:16 pm #

    I am astounded that neither hats nor sunscreen were allowed at the school! We had a “no hat no play” rule (and we all had wide brim hats or baseball caps with with a flap to cover the neck). Nothing about forms for sunscreen either. The school had large jugs of sunscreen for everyone.

    It’s all become terribly litigation-minded. But in a way I can understand. There have been cases where kids have died from allergic reactions after eating something that they knew they were allergic to (but maybe not that it might kill them). And then the parents sued.

    I know there’s common sense but it only takes one litigation incident for schools to throw it out the window and run for the hills. So now schools are afraid to do anything and everything.

  145. James Powell June 25, 2012 at 11:29 pm #

    Gee, let’s flip this over. “Required students to be exposed to a known carcinogen, and forbade them from wearing a protective barrier, even though it was available and they requested it.”

    Guys, there is never a 100% risk-free option in life, but I think I know which is *more* risky…

  146. pentamom June 26, 2012 at 2:06 am #

    Marion Ros — EXACTLY.

  147. sara r. June 26, 2012 at 4:09 am #

    It’s absolutely terrible that the teachers refused to give the girls sunscreen or take them out of the sun, but am I the only person who never would have thought about sending sunscreen? I am 30 years old; I remember many a field day at school, but I never remember putting on sunscreen, nor do I remember other people doing it. I am fair-skinned and used to burn fairly easily, but I don’t remember burning terribly; must have gotten into the shade or something.
    I just can’t imagine looking at children obviously getting a sunburn and then not doing anything about it. I agree with some other posters- it doesn’t matter that the mother didn’t send it, etc. Human kindness should dictate action to prevent further damage.

  148. Juliet June 27, 2012 at 12:09 am #

    This story is insane. I don’t understand the rule one bit.

  149. sighthndman June 29, 2012 at 12:15 am #

    I Am Not A Lawyer, BUT: the Principal’s answer seems to indicate why she did exactly the wrong thing. She said she followed the rule because of liability. Nonetheless, she could see that the girls were getting sunburned (that is, BEING HARMED). Children have a natural desire to please and respect for authority, so they are going to do what the principal and the teachers tell them to do (at least until they reach that rebellious stage), so by allowing the sunburn to occur and certainly to develop further, the adults harmed the children. This is a tort. Especially since the children brought their own remedies/preventions and the adults prevented them from using them. Regardless of the rules (rules are for guidance, not to be a straightjacket, and all laws have “wiggle room”, except school rules, which are rigidly applied without regard to facts and circumstances, which says more about teachers and school administrators than the school environment), when a clear and present danger exists, no adult in charge may (legally) prevent a child from protecting herself, Of course the school system is liable in this case.

    Furthermore, think of the damage they’ve done by proving that “the authorities” are just mindless idiots who enforce rules without paying attention to whether or not they make sense (at all, let alone in this particular situation). Well, would have done if this were the first time. Instead, it’s just one more instance of the public schools performing their primary function of sowing distrust of government.

    BTW, love the blog. First time here. You are my Echo.

  150. milie June 29, 2012 at 12:31 pm #

    I Am a daycare probider and I took some of my kids to the pool and I apply sunblock 2 times on a 2 hour trip one of the kids got sunburn and the parent call licensing on me my question is, what should be do even if we put the sunblock we get hurt 🙁 got knows I did everything I could to protect him and I got hurt.

  151. milie June 29, 2012 at 12:36 pm #

    parents are never happy we put sunblock or not they still not happy,accident happen sometimes nobody wants to hurd a child

  152. BMS July 1, 2012 at 3:44 am #

    I just find mysel really annoyed at the fact that everything is always MOM’s fault. Not Dad, not a teacher who could have used common sense and taken the kids inside, called mom, or done anything other than let them burn. If my kids get hit by a meteor tomorrow, does that mean it is my fault for not developing superpowers, flying into the air, and pushing the meteor off course? I must have been absent the day they handed out the mom powers that allow me to prevent every possible thing that might be bad from happening to my kids.

  153. Samantha Combs July 2, 2012 at 3:39 am #

    I just got back from Urgent Care. On Thursday, the Boys and Girls Club where my two children are at summer camp, had a beach day. I dropped my children off with towels, extra clothing, and a brand new can of sunscreen. I fully expected them to assist and remind in the application. I drop them at 8am and they weren’t leaving until the afternoon. My two children came home with severe, agonizing burns. Not one of the adult “caregivers” applied any sunscreen. And a 9 and 6 year old just aren;t responsible enough to do it when they are playing in the surf, despite my reminders just as I left them. I also mentioned it to the site coordinator whom I saw as I dropped them off. My son is worst, having no sleep and no ability to wear a shirt for the past four days. My husband wants to consult a lawyer. I am not there yet, but still find it incomprehensible that caregivers trained to caretake children would not think of applying sunscreen. Am I wrong?

  154. Keeley July 6, 2012 at 4:58 am #

    Prefacing my perspective with the belief that the teachers who didn’t a: keep the kids without sunscreen inside so they didn’t turn into lobsters or b: see if the office could contact the parent and see if they’d be willing to come put sunscreen on their child, were obviously not thinking straight. But sometimes when you’re watching over 20+ children, that kind of brain dead thing happens (kind of like a parent forgetting about field day at school happens). I work in a childcare where every parent is required to sign a permission form to allow us to apply sunscreen to the children in our class, however without that permission form I would not be able to apply sunscreen under any circumstances nor can I allow the children access to it on their own, any more than I’d be able to let them use an over the counter cough syrup. We have the same issue with any kind of lotion (including diaper cream), makeup and chapstick. This isn’t actually the school policy- it’s insurance (liability) and state law that dictates this stuff. The school can’t financially afford to ignore those things, they already pay ridiculous fees just to have each child on the property. I have students come in with dry skin and I send notes home to parents asking them to apply lotion or fill out a medical release form so I can do it at school because I’m not able to otherwise. If a parent doesn’t listen to my advice, my hands are tied. I don’t enjoy watching the child itch and live with dry skin or a rash (eczema is my nemesis), but I’m also not able to financially handle the consequences of taking matters into my own hands and ‘medicating’ a child. I don’t think people area aware of how sue-crazy some parents are when they talk about why the teacher didn’t just put sunscreen on the children without the parents permission. I’ve seen teachers who’s lives were ruined over stupid things like a child who had a reaction to simple face-paint. You can loose your job and then get to invest thousands of dollars defending yourself against any legal repercussions, all because you painted a heart on a child’s cheek and they got a little rash afterwards. Is it fair? Obviously not. Is it right? Well, I’d love to see thousands of parents marching and demanding insurance companies and government legislature loosen the stranglehold they’ve imposed on schools “for the good of the child”. I’d like to see the parents who are willing to ruin a teacher’s career/life over any bump or scrape, laughed out of the court room. It doesn’t change the reality that I as a teacher live with every day. I can watch your child and care for them, but I don’t have the same legal rights as a parent and am not allowed to care for your child as if I were. Any way you can help me do what I can within the bounds of what I can do will make me appreciate you as a parent.

  155. Jenn July 7, 2012 at 5:01 am #

    On my last order of sunscreen I came across this link attached to the pump –
    If you follow the link there is a petition to allow students to carry their own sunscreen to school without a prescription and they donate with a purchase a backpack sized sunscreen to partner schools.

  156. caseykurlander July 10, 2012 at 4:45 am #

    This is a good, helpful article that people should read before going out into the sun. I don’t think a lot of people realize how dangerous the rays are. I just wrote an article explaining the importance and different types of sunscreen/SPF on my blog if you want to check it out:


  157. Veronica July 17, 2012 at 1:49 am #

    What about this situation: I signed the note at the daycare, provided SPF 70+ sunscreen (spray kind, don’t even have to touch my child), sent him sunscreened and with a swim-shirt (with UPF50) on to the ‘splash-day’ my daycare had, and my VERY blond, fair child ended up with a 2nd-3rd degree burn on both shoulders. (He took off the swim shirt and NOONE put any sunscreen on him, nor offered it to him). How do I handle this? Looking for any suggestions, oh, and let me mention, I’m a 10yr Stage 3 Melanoma survivor, so completely freaked right now….

  158. dan July 29, 2012 at 9:34 am #

    I work for a major UK children’s activity holiday provider.

    In the recent hot weather we have been going around giving factor 30 to anyone who didn’t have sunscreen of their own (unlike the stupid school in question we do not count it as medication anymore than we would count flouride containing toothpaste as medication) we offer it, if they cant have it for whatever reason they will know this and will decline.

    generally we just squirt or spray sunscreen into the kids hands letting them apply it themselves wherever they need it although we will remind them of often forgotton areas (such as ears or the backs of knees when wearing shorts)

  159. mary September 2, 2012 at 3:18 am #

    As someone mentioned there is no point applying sunscreen in the morning if the kids will be out in the sun in the afternoon. I drive by a school about 1.30pm every afternoon and see pre k and elementary kids playing out in the hot afternoon texas sun while the teachers are under a shade. When you look at the kids closely their cheeks and ears are all red. I wonder wouldn’t it be safer and sensible for the school to take the kids out morning hours before it’s 90degrees and above?

  160. Dolly September 16, 2012 at 5:40 pm #

    I asked my pediatrician for a note saying my kids could have sunscreen at school just to cover my bases after this happened. He refused and said he has never had to do that before and won’t do it. It pissed me off that he refused to write a simple note just so that if the school does let my child burn I have documentation that I did all I could as a parent to prevent sunburns for my kids.

    If you are very pale skin, applying it before you go to school in the morning is not enough. It has to be reapplied every 2 hours at least if not more frequently. I have a son that burns in less than 30 minutes.


  1. Sunburned Kids at School: Who’s to Blame? | Parenting – Yahoo! Shine « Stuph Blog - June 22, 2012

    […] Kids Severely Sunburned at School Because They Didn’t Have “Prescription” for Suns… ( […]

  2. “Kids Severely Sunburned at School Because They Didn’t Have ‘Prescription’ for Sunscreen” - Overlawyered - June 24, 2012

    […] school official says a newly enacted law will allow that policy to be changed. [Jesse Michener via Lenore Skenazy, Free-Range-Kids] […]

  3. Unsympathetic Public School Burns Two Girls Alive, Pathetically Hides Behind Liberal-Based Law « The Neosecularist - June 25, 2012

    […] Kids Severely Sunburned at School Because They Didn’t Have “Prescription” for Suns… ( Share this:ShareDiggTwitterLinkedInRedditStumbleUponFacebookPrintEmailTumblrPinterestLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. Posted in education, government, politics, public schools, silly laws and tagged Homeschooling, Jesse Michener, Kids Severely Sunburned, Kids Sunburn, Kids Sunburned At Field Day, Kids Sunburned At School, liberalism, Politics, private school, Washington Kids Sunburned At School, zero tolerance policy […]

  4. How Parents Are Playing Russian Roulette With Their Children | Ethics Alarms - June 25, 2012

    […] Source: Free Range Kids […]