Should kids be allowed to use sunscreen at school?

A mom says two of her children were severely sunburned at school during field day. The school rules would not allow children to apply sunscreen to themselves without a doctor’s note.

From The Huffington Post:

“Two of my three children experienced significant sunburns. Like, hurts-to-look-at burns,” Jesse Michener from Washington wrote. It was raining that morning, so Michener didn’t apply sunscreen on her kids. But even if she had, the kids would have needed another coat once the sun came out (the AAP recommends applying sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 every two hours). The girls weren’t allowed to put any sunblock on though, and the reason cited was school policy.”

“Tacoma Public School district spokesman Dan Voelpel told Yahoo! Shine that, according to statewide law, teachers are not allowed to apply sunscreen to students and students can only apply it to themselves if they have a doctor’s note… “

“Michener told The Huffington Post that adults made comments about her kids burning, but because of the law, did nothing about it. She wrote on her blog, “one of my children remarked that their teacher used sunscreen in her presence and that it was ‘just for her.’ So, is this an issue of passive, inactive supervision? Where is the collective awareness for student safety?” At the very least, a hat might have protected the girls, but, “alas, hats are not allowed at school, even on field day…”

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

I am pretty sure that for field day this year we were told to put sunscreen on in the morning and then send a bottle of it in their bags. I don’t know if either one actually used it but they had it.

Should kids be allowed to bring sunscreen to school? Should schools allow children to put on sunscreen at school? Should teachers be responsible for noticing if a child is getting too much sun?

51 comments Add your comment


June 25th, 2012
6:55 am

Simple solution — Have a sunscreen dispenser in the school. A kid drops in a quarter and gets an ounce or two of sunscreen.


June 25th, 2012
7:10 am

This is the kind of controversy that makes me crazy. Can we not be reasonable adults who can make decisons, not rules. If the public schools can’t figure out how to let kids have sunscreen on field day, how in the world can they meet their core mission?


June 25th, 2012
7:35 am

Solution is very simple: If you don’t allow for sunscreen you should not force kids to be in the sun for longer than 30 minutes or so (depending on the weather). If they force kids to stay for longer they are guilty of negligence – especially since teachers were seen putting on sunblock on for they knew that they could get sunburns.

will matson

June 25th, 2012
7:40 am

What was the rationale for the law?


June 25th, 2012
7:48 am

The daycares and schools here cannot apply it without written consent from the parent. And only what a parent sends in. How do they know that Susie cannot have PABA?

This is not new…This is happened for at least 10 years now.

My kids get a coat (70 SPF) each morning before they leave, and at least twice before the come home….They are a nice light brown sugar color at the moment. I went to White Water with them and I was lobster red despite the 70 spf!


June 25th, 2012
7:49 am

BTW, nowhere in the article does it say she sent suncreen in ” Where is the collective awareness for student safety?” where is the PARENT doing what she should for her kid???

Dana Cooke

June 25th, 2012
8:04 am

Why is it always the school’s fault ? We can not change the law !!! We send notes home telling parents that we can not put it on their child , please do so at home. This mother knew her children had fair skin and one with a skin problem. Mom should have done her homework!! She could have gotten a prescription given it to the school clinic and she would have been good to go. We do the best we can without braking the law. Had some one put sunscreen on that child and she have a bad reaction, whole new can of worms.


June 25th, 2012
8:14 am

I think this poster on the original facebook entry said it best——> (it was posted by Daniel) “I am very sorry that your kids got very bad sun burns yesterday. However, I find it interesting that YOU and ZOE are aware of her skin condition, yet, knowing that she was going on a field trip you neglected to apply any sunscreen, and you have failed to in the past get the doctors note for the prescription (I do understand the costs associated with this) so that Zoe can apply sunscreen herself at school. My best friend growing up had the same skin condition, and his mom applied sunscreen to him every morning, and he had a doctors note so that he could apply it at school. Not to mention he always had a hat, long sleeve shirt (if not wearing one) and long pants(if he was wearing shorts)in his locker or backpack in case he forgot his sunscreen. While those sunburns look very bad, they were also preventative by you as the parent(no hat, and tank top burns in the pictures you posted). While I agree the policy needs to be changed/updated, don’t go blaming the school district for YOUR lack of preparedness (prescription for sunscreen) and lack of action(apply sunscreen in the AM, and give her a hat, and a shirt that will cover her shoulders) for Zoe’s sunburns.”


June 25th, 2012
8:18 am

- sunscreen needs to be water resistant – otherwise will wash off. Even water resistant sunblock will protect you for less than 80 minutes.
- with few exceptions sunblocks do not protect for longer than 120 minutes
- to protect well sunblock needs to offer UVA and UVB protection
- some ingredients in the sunblock can be harmful (even those labeled for Kids)

Sunblock will not protect your eyes and hat is still recommended.

Sunblock is not a fix for common sense or foolish rules and regulations.


June 25th, 2012
8:20 am

My kids’ school actually makes you send a bottle of sunscreen for them to keep in their cubby so they can re-apply. I find it strange that this school has such a strict rule.

On the other hand, as a previous poster stated, it’s kind of odd that the mother, being aware of the skin condition, neglected to put sunscreen on the kids before they left for the day.


June 25th, 2012
8:27 am

Putting sunscreen on at 7:00 a.m and then going outside at 1:00 p.m. has very little effect. Sunscreen, in order to be effective, must be applied no more than 30 minutes before exposure to the sun. Then it needs to be reapplied every 30 minutes, more so if you are in and out of the water.

We use Coppertone Sport 50 SPF. It’s the ONLY sunscreen I trust, and the sprays are useless. I’ve tried the 50SPF spray, and I burned. We also use 35SPF, but mostly 50. I’ve had my share of sunburns so I am very cautious. We spend a lot of time outdoors, and only one child has suffered a bad burn……We are at the lake just about every weekend, and I have yet to get burned with the Coppertone Sport.


June 25th, 2012
8:38 am

My children’s daycare is constantly sending home notes to remind the parents to apply sunscreen before we leave home, and reminding us that the teachers will re-apply later in the day. I just assumed that was how all schools/daycares did it. I am flabergasted.


June 25th, 2012
8:48 am

My son’s daycare applies sunscreen to the kids before they go outside to play. You would think this would be common sense.

☺☻Have A Smile!

June 25th, 2012
8:52 am

For every 250 reasonable people who would like a teacher to apply sunscreen to their child and avoid his problem by using common sense, there’s going to be that one person who claims they don’t want “other people touching my child.”

All it takes is one self-righteous excuse-for-a-parent and a lawsuit without any real merit to ruin things for everyone else. I can’t entirely blame the school on this one.


June 25th, 2012
9:09 am

God forbid a kid gets sunburned. God forbid a kid gets their feelings hurt or their knee skinned. They cant fall off their bike anymore and they can never, ever do anything without parental supervision, ever. They cant ride a bus, They cant walk..anywhere. Their education must be modified to suit them. It’s summer, wake them up at 9, throw them a poptart, shove them out the door, then lock it!


June 25th, 2012
9:18 am


June 25th, 2012
9:31 am

@Dana: Are you a teacher? Just curious, given your creative use of spelling.


June 25th, 2012
9:33 am

Wow, Pat, really? I generally do agree that today’s kids are coddled a bit too much, but to me, sunburns are nothing to joke about, having been through several skin cancer scares myself due to a little too much sun exposure in my younger days. It’s not just “one of those things every kid has to experience.”

Putting sunscreen on your kid does not make you a helicopter parent. Heck, I put sunscreen on myself daily.


June 25th, 2012
9:34 am

These kids are not owned by you, they don’t belong to you. They are born from you at that’s it. You are projecting your own insecurities at these kids and cheating them of the reality that is life. If you never in your life hit your thumb with a hammer you will never in your life drive a nail home straight.


June 25th, 2012
9:39 am

@Pat – the children that come out of MY BODY, belong to me….Yes I “own” them, and I pay for everything. I shelter them, I feed them, I educate them, I play with them. I raise them. I foot the bill for them. So yea, they belong to me.

Now if you want to start picking up some of the tab, please feel free, then we can discuss who they belong to. But as long as I am footing the bill, and providing food and shelter, they are MINE!!!!

That has to be the dumbest thing I have ever heard.


June 25th, 2012
9:47 am

Sunscreen is an OTC drug. Like all OTC drugs, teachers cannot give it to children and children cannot administer it to themselves. That is the law. The school policy is to follow the law. Stop blaming the schools or calling the teachers stupid, call the law stupid and get your local lawmaker to change the law. If the teacher had given this child sunscreen (against the law) and god forbid something had happened, she had a reaction, it wasn’t applied the right way, the chilld said the teacher touched her, the child gave the sunscreen to another child- anything, the teacher woulld have no b and would have likely ended up fired or sued. Just look at the discussion about IEP’s. Parents are ready to sue at the drop of a hat. Teachers and schools MUST follow the law, even when that law appears to be against common sense.


June 25th, 2012
9:55 am

This is just another example of the result of living in an ultra-communicative blogosphere that is also inhabited by way more attorneys than our society can support which gives us:

1) A kid getting sunburned at school is actually a news item!

2) Schools and other institutions being so paralyzed by fear of lawsuit that they are completely, and utterly devoid of common sense which ironically leads to legal trouble.


June 25th, 2012
9:59 am

Sunscreen is a drug? WOW. I had no idea. I’m freely giving my kids drugs……and myself and my husband. Really? I wonder why the FDA hasn’t cracked down on OTC sunscreen. Is there Sunscreen rehab? Do you get disability if hooked on sunscreen?


June 25th, 2012
10:13 am


1) “drug” does not necessarily mean something is bad for you or addictive

2) the FDA does regulate sunscreen


June 25th, 2012
10:15 am


No one owns someone else, and that includes children. If you owned your children then it would be legal for you to decide not to educate them, decide not to feed them, decide to keep them locked in a cage, and/or decide to kill them. Thank God we look upon children as separate beings deserving of dignity and respect.


Parents have certain rights to the way in which we raise our children. I am the legal guardian of the children that came out of my body, and I exercise all my rights to ensure they get the best nurturing and care I can give. The government makes me responsible for meeting all their needs, and God makes me responsible for protecting them and providing a nurturing enviroment. Protecting them from sunburns is part of that responsibility, as it will greatly lessen their likelihood of getting skin cancer later in life.


June 25th, 2012
10:23 am

I would never have considered sunscreen a drug


June 25th, 2012
10:35 am

Wow, like Doctors have nothing better to do than sign notes about kids using sunscreen!

I do understand not allowing teachers to apply it to kids – CYA, thank you lawyers, and I even understand needing some permission to use it, but not from a Doctor. Sunscreen is an OTC product, so only a parents permission should be needed. Some kids do have skin conditions that might cause reactions to certain lotions – so kids should bring in their own lotions, and parents should give permission.


June 25th, 2012
10:38 am

Any product marketed in the US as a sunscreen is considered an OTC drug and must contain approved active ingredients. The
SPF must be determined in a panel of at least 20 human subjects, as outlined in the FDA Sunscreen Monograph.
The FDA Sunscreen Monograph
As of December 31, 2001, the FDA has delayed publication of part 352 and anticipates that the new effective date will not be
before January 1, 2005. Part 352 will address formulation, labeling, and testing requirements for both UVA protection and UVB
protection. See:
The “Final” FDA Sunscreen Monograph was published in the Federal Register on Friday, May 21, 1999 (Vol 64, No 98, pages
27666-27693). Following is a synopsis:
• The FDA estimates that approximately 12,000 sunscreen SKU’s will have to be relabeled, and some will need to be re-tested,
within a 2-year period to comply with the requirements of the monograph. [p. 27684]
The FDA Monograph represents completion of the process of developing regulations for OTC sunscreen products initiated in
August of 1978, except for “certain testing issues” and UVA labeling, which the FDA will discuss in future issues of the Federal
Register. Until then, permissible UVA labeling must comply with the Tentative Final Monograph (May 12, 1993, 58 FR 28194) and
its amendments (June 8, 1994, 59 FR 29706; September 16, 1996, 61 FR 48645; April 30 1997, 62 FR 23350 and October 22, 1998,
63 FR 56584).

Again, this being regulated is not new…that a school must comply is not new.


June 25th, 2012
10:45 am

Sunscreens just like shampoo, toothpaste are regulated by FDA as all of them contain chemical ingredients.

Speaking of drugs Oxybenzone is comm in sunscreen lotions and can cause allergies, hormone disruption and cell damage. Therefore applying sunscreen, as some here suggested, just in case might be more unhealthy than getting sunburn once in a while.


June 25th, 2012
10:47 am

It may be stupid but I can see why a parent would have to be responsible to send sunscreen to school with a child with a prescription. No one knows what a child is sensitive to/allergic to. I made a mistake yesterday and put some sunscreen that I put on my body on my face and it stung/burned. I have a different sunscreen for my face at home but this was what I have in my gym bag and I thought it wouldn’t be a big deal. WRONG. What would a parent do if a teacher put the “wrong” sunscreen on their special snowflake? Sue, cause a scene, call for the teacher’s head on a platter, or be understanding/reasonable? I’m sure some would be reasonable but if I was a teacher I wouldn’t want to take the chance. This goes back to “follow the rule until you find a way to change it”.


June 25th, 2012
10:54 am


I agree with what you wrote completely. However, by not protecting our kids from harm the school has exposed themselves as well. If they know that kid does not have a sunscreen on – they should either send the kid home or keep them in a shade. After all, just like you mention, the school is responsible for the well being of all the pupils.

Once Again

June 25th, 2012
10:59 am

Zero tolerance = Zero intelligence. Count on government to get it wrong every time. Why are your kids still a prisoner of this system of failure??


June 25th, 2012
11:24 am

ML – Another reason I’m glad I am not in the school system! Too much responsibility, too much liability.


June 25th, 2012
11:29 am

The problem with the system is not too much responsibility and liability (In my view there’a actually too little individual accountability)

The problem is outrageous fees, fines, jail sentences (what followed three stikes and your out laws). We all make mistakes, but we should be working towards fixing them instead of relinquishing the responsibility or blaming someone else.

mystery poster

June 25th, 2012
11:43 am

Sunscreen is a drug just like Advil is a drug.
I don’t remember what the protocol was for students taking Advil when I mine were in school. Did they need a doctor’s note or just parental permission? I used to tell my kids to just make sure no one saw them take it (of course, this was when they were HS age).

Once Again

June 25th, 2012
11:52 am

ML – by turning your children over to the government to raise and educate, you already relinquished responsibility. There is only one way to get that genie back in the bottle – get your kids out.


June 25th, 2012
12:30 pm

ML – I think the school system assumes too much liability because of things like “sunscreen”. Why is a teach responsible for seeing that children are protected when their parents don’t show the same care? That is what I mean. If a parent does not send a child with sunscreen then a teacher should be responsible to keep them out of the sun? What is a teacher supposed to do, ask each student if their parents put sunscreen on them that morning? And what if a teacher does not keep a child out of the sun and the child gets sunburned? Is the teacher at fault or is the parent? That is what I mean by liability and responsibility. Teachers should teach and parents should parent. Again, I’m glad I am not involved in any of this. My coworkers ACT like children but they are responsible for themselves.


June 25th, 2012
12:39 pm

I don’t think that our school system knows sunscreen is a drug, because I have never heard of anyone getting in trouble for using it. Of course, we have such limited time outside (20 minutes on a good day) that even a redhead like me (taking med that makes me photo-sensitive) has a hard time getting burned except for field day. My understanding is that the kids parents sent in sunscreen if their kids needed it. I will check into this, however, and see what happens with our school.


June 25th, 2012
12:46 pm

@Denise – Nicely said. I still wonder why sunscreen needs a doctor’s note instead, but I guess I have the luxury of DD’s school re-applying sunscreen (that I provided) after I send her in with it on :o)

@TWG – Wondering about a topic on the Kansas City mom who admitted to locking her 10-year-old daughter in the closet, not feeding her every day, etc. What would make a mom do something so terrible to one of her children? Homeschooler probably has a lot of insight. How do these things happen, and how do other moms (and dads, of course) cope with knowing this was going on in their community and they had no idea?


June 25th, 2012
12:52 pm

I suppose I can understand the school wanting to cover it’s tracks and not be liable if a kid puts sunscreen on while on campus and has some sort of allergic reaction or something, but this is silly. A doctors note? You don’t need one to buy the stuff, why would you need one to put it on? My wife puts sunscreen on the kids every morning before they leave for school during the summer / spring months, but we’ve never sent any to school with them. When our kids have field day, we’re usually there watching and they’ll come sit with us between activities and we’ll put more sunscreen on them. Never had a problem or heard a peep from the administrators.


June 25th, 2012
1:14 pm

If you would just put all of them in burqas, this wouldn’t happen.


June 25th, 2012
2:51 pm

In our system, kids can’t even bring OTC drugs on the bus. I made the mistake of sending Benadryl with my son last fall after he had an allergic reaction to something, and I got a call from the clinic telling me he wasn’t supposed to have it on the bus. I had no idea (and I’m a teacher in the same system!). I won’t let my kids borrow lotion from me. Nowadays, you have no idea what kids are allergic or sensitive to.

I don’t know much about albanism, but don’t they need to use sunscreen EVERY single time they are out in the sun. I would think that the mom should have already had sunscreen in the clinic for recess times.


June 25th, 2012
3:05 pm

I am usually at the school for field day, so if they need sun screen, I apply it then..I would think that field day would allow for special situations in taking sun screen to school..Guess that shows what I know huh?

Mr. Todd

June 25th, 2012
3:58 pm

And then there was a first-person witnessing of two sunburned 8th grade girls who visited a beach in Florida together. Petal had four Band-Aids on her face to cover up the open wounds made by too much sun … there had been some peeling open and weeping of too-fine skin. The embarrassment was palpable. Petal wouldn’t look me in the eye and she normally bores right through me.

I didn’t say anything … ask anything … or look at her in any way different than I normally do. I was proud of myself. Acting is a skill teachers need from time to time …to help someone else save face.

Her party animal buddy got scorched, too, and told a tale to the rest of the class, while subtlety smiling my way, of having to be zipped to the Daytona Beach emergency room for nearly sun-burning her whole head off.

I wouldn’t have been surprised if she had winked at me.

She was still painfully red in other odd places … the red streaks on her neck looked like tattoos angrily applied. Blotches on her arms and legs. Her scalp line. On full display. But she was a good sport about it. Because you could tell that over a Thanksgiving break in sunny Florida, eighth grader Debbie Jenkins thought she had raised some hell.


June 25th, 2012
10:38 pm

Many schools aren’t allowed to put things like sunscreen, neosporin, etc, due to the possibility of allergic reactions. There has to be explicit permission to administer these and any form of medicine. The mother stated that her child had a 504 plan for her child with a form of albinism. If the 504 plan doesn’t say anything about sun exposure, unfortunately, it’s no one’s fault but the mother’s. It wouldn’t have taken an extra $110 doctor’s visit: it should have been documented with everything else in the plan.

K's Mom

June 25th, 2012
11:48 pm

OK, my 2yo can pretty well rub lotion on his arms and legs himself, so by the time a kid starts kindergarten I would think this is something the child should be able to conquer. So, why can the schools which have field days send a permission slip home, get it signed and allow kids to bring sunscreen and apply it themselves. Maybe that is too common sense, but that way the kids are coveres, no adult is touching them and the school has a permission slip.

Also, remember that sunscreen loses its effectiveness over time. I alwys buy new sunscreen around Easter to make sure it still has the full power of the listed SPF, kind of like I change smoke detector batteries when the time changes in the fall and spring. I really wish the FDA required an expiration date on sunscreen, but I have never seen it on a bottle.

HuffPost Producer

June 26th, 2012
9:43 am

We are hosting a rehearsal live discussion about this topic today at 2:30EST for Huffington Post and would love to have your input!

If anyone is available to share your thoughts on-camera, please contact me at

Thank you! -Charli

[...] Should kids be allowed to use sunscreen at school? (Atlanta Journal Constitution) [...]


June 27th, 2012
1:17 pm

I am always amazed that people who think that when it is rainy out that the sun ceases to exist in any form. When it is a snowy day, there is sunshine, people! It’s usually worse because the sun’s rays reflect off of the snow and then onto people. You put sunscreen on your kid before school. Yes, it only lasts two hours – IF YOU ARE SWEATING IT OFF IN SOME WAY. If not, you are fine. God, some people just look for stuff to be upset about. This mom should have put it on her kids in the morning; looking for someone to blame!


June 28th, 2012
2:06 pm

Great piece, I have a blog myself, I have been wondering – Is there something you could do to stop someone copying your work? If you have a lot of content online like you do, sometimes you see it appearing elsewhere on the web. Its so annoying and I’m not sure how to stop it. Any tips?